The 24-Hour Challenge at Panthers Stadium

The NRL clash between Penrith Panthers and New Zealand Warriors at Panthers Stadium this Friday will form the backdrop to The 24-Hour Challenge – a key initiative of the club's Building Young Men (BYM) program.

BYM is an annual 20-week mentoring program that brings together a group of male high school students with current and past NRL players, successful businessmen and community leaders.

Established by former Panthers player and General Manager of Panthers on the Prowl, Brad Waugh, BYM is focused on connecting strong male role models with local teenage boys most in need.

"The need is stark with one in three boys growing up without a father figure in their life," Mr Waugh said.

"High rates of divorce and out-of-wedlock births has created a generation of fatherless boys.

"The number of boys growing up without strong male role models in their lives has reached epidemic proportions."

The 24-Hour Challenge will see the boys and their mentors walk continuous laps of Panthers Stadium from 10am Friday 6 July until 10am Saturday 7 July.

The challenge, which will test the group both physically and mentally, represents a positive rite of passage.

Mr Waugh said the transformational nature of rites of passage was once seen as fundamental to human growth and development, but that value has been lost in modern Western society.

"Nowadays in Western culture we see rites of passage being self-administered by boys and often involving risk-taking behaviour including sex, alcohol and drugs," he said.

It is a belief shared by adolescent development expert Dr Arne Rubinstein, who has been involved with the development of BYM.

"The concept of players, ex-players and successful local business people coming together to provide mentoring and rites of passage is a unique and very powerful thing," Dr Rubinstein said.

"This program needs to be rolled out to all clubs in the NRL."