L: Jessica Robb (Jessy), a Journalism student at MacEwan University
R: Thomas Feth, a Political Science student at the University of AlbertaRead More
L: Jessica Robb (Jessy), a Journalism student at MacEwan University
R: Thomas Feth, a Political Science student at the University of AlbertaRead More
Of course, I learned a lot more than 16 things in 2016, but I’ve decided to key in on 16 of the best Free Footie-related lessons this year has given me. I’ve been in this position for a little over 4 months, and believe me when I say it has been one of the biggest, best, and hardest challenges of my life to date.
1. You can not pretend jet lag isn’t happening: I got off the plane late on the 15th and started work on the 16th…not sure I’d recommend it.
2. Admitting you don’t know something is just fine, as long as you are committed to finding the answer.
3. Chaos is only bad if it gets in the way of people having fun.
4. If you want to foster some leadership in your teenaged refs and you tell them to “fly at it”, “do you”, “it’s your call”, or “give it a go”, you need to find a way to be okay with the result.
5. If that teenaged ref makes a great decision or shows some amazing leadership, tell them. Sing it from the rooftops, throw a parade, celebrate.
6. If you’re going to be the primary contact for an agency, make sure you have your voicemail set up (sorry to everyone who tried to reach me by phone before, like, November 30th or something).
7. When I was in school I always found teacher’s ability to forecast issues and suggest solutions before the bad thing even happened to be a little irritating, I am now incredibly thankful for their uncanny gift of foresight.
8. Thank all City of Edmonton Recreation employees as often and enthusiastically as you possibly can, because they make the Free Footie indoor programme’s world go ‘round (seriously, all you beauties at Commonwealth, thank you!)
9. Moreover, thank all the people who make Free Footie’s world go ‘round on a regular basis, because, seriously, they rule.
10. Yelling and getting stress-y doesn’t actually make nets inflate any faster.
11. Nobody but me cares about how straight the lines are dividing the soccer pitches. But also, Omayma and Isabella are way better at this task that I ever will be.
12. I have learned that one or both of my backseats and/or my trunk will forever be filled with Free Footie-related gear – whether it be socks, shin guards, medals, trophies, nets, or jerseys. My next car will have to have more trunk space.
13. I am still terrible at filling out time sheets.
14. To receive help you need to ask for it.
15. Drawing inspiration from a hyped-up, passionate, enthusiastic 8-year-old is perfectly acceptable.
16. No matter how insane, skin-of-your-teeth, or force-of-will something feels, it’s always worth it for these kiddos to get to play.
So that’s that. It’s been a whirlwind but I can’t imagine a job I’d rather be doing. I hope you all have a safe and restful holiday season and a very happy new year. I say, bring on 2017 – we’ve lots more soccer to play.
For the kids participating in Free Footie, the program is a way to spend their afternoon playing a sport they love with friends.
For their parents, it’s a much needed after school care program. But for REACH Edmonton, Free Footie is one of many tools they use to combat a generational culture of violence in this city.
“It's definitely a true prevention program,” said Adele Towns, director of finance and communication with REACH Edmonton. “You're getting kids out into the neighbourhood parks where they can play soccer. That builds a sense of community amongst the kids and the parents and the neighbours, even.”
The groundwork for REACH Edmonton was laid in 2010 after the Mayor and Council asked a former police chief and a mental health advocate to figure out what would make Edmontonians feel more safe and secure.
That lead to the REACH report and a year later the creation of REACH to oversee the recommendations.
“We really feel that we want to create this in a generation,” Adele said. “It's a 25 year plan. It takes a while to change a culture.”
REACH Edmonton’s objective is a simple one, but its solution is complicated. And so its activity has to reflect the nature of the problem.
In order to achieve a reduction in violence, REACH Edmonton is backbone for a range of different programs, so the people on the ground who know the solutions to the challenge are supported.
“We work extensively with newcomers, immigrants, and refugees in the context of family violence,” Adele said.
REACH Edmonton is also involved in a crisis diversion program for youth, a group to combat marijuana grow ops, and an after school program for marginalized kids.
REACH Edmonton casts a wide net, and so they must in order to combat a problem that they feel can come from a variety of sources.
“We always look at what are people doing already so we're not duplicating,” Adele said. “How can we bring people into the fold? We're removing barriers for services for families that need that. For kids that need that.”
Free Footie, then, is right up their alley. Kids are able to play soccer without the kind of barriers that traditional community league sports have on kids with working parents.
REACH Edmonton believes this is exactly the type of program needed to seriously change the culture in a community.
“Parents who are working 2 or 3 jobs to make ends meet can have a good place for their kids to be. They're not at home getting in trouble, they're in with other kids, they're learning things,” Adele said.
Because of this, REACH Edmonton has helped out Free Footie from the very beginning. It’s gathered funds and helped out administratively, anything from buying soccer balls to maneuvering through insurance policies. And, though it’s early days, it seems to be working.
“We really feel like we're helping,” Adele said. “We get cards and letters from kids who say it's so important to them to be a part of a team.”
Written By: Patrick Connolly Photo By: Catherine Page
This summer we are launching our first ever summer soccer camps.
The camps are open to all children for a paid fee as fundraiser for our program, but we are also trying to send as many Free Footie kids to the camp as possible via sponsorship.
We love the kids, believe in the kids and just spent an entire school year with them, so why when it comes to summer would we want to let them drop off?
We know that summer can be a very hard time for kids. School is over, Free Footie is done and many other camps, even if free, don't offer transportation, making it very difficult for kids to attend if the kid's families have no access to a vehicle.
For years, we've been asked by schools, kids and parents to fix this. To give the kids something productive to do in the summer and we've finally taken it on. We've built a camp that's entirely focused on building the character of kids - making them confident on and off the field by surrounding them with incredible mentors such as former national team goal keeper Karina LeBlanc.
The challenge is that running a kids camp, properly, is extremely expensive. You must develop emergency procedures and polices, find a solid venue to operate under during all weather conditions, bring in great camp chaperons to help kids having a rough day, and of course, have quality coaches who not only show all the great leadership qualities we want for working with our kids, but who also have a command of soccer.
The costs, quite frankly, we're way too much and the project was in jeopardy. We approached the TELUS Edmonton Community Board for support and with some guidance from the folks at KidSport the funding came through - in a big and beautiful way!
This $20,000 will help send 100 Free Footie kids to our camp. That will undoubtedly have a long term and life changing impact on all kids and we are so proud that the TELUS Edmonton Community Board saw the value in what we are trying to do.
As well as these 100 kids, we will be sending an additional 20 more kids thanks to other individuals and private companies that have been giving us an incredible amount of support.
We'd sincerely like to thank all the folks at Telus - the future is certainly friendly for our kids.
Please take a moment to share this article as well as check out our camp page and learn about the amazing coaches the kids will be working with, and, consider signing up your own kids! Any proceeds from registration of kids outside of free footie go straight back into running our free soccer league for 1700 kids in need. Have awesome fun and do good at the same time, sounds like a win-win to us!!!!
People often think of a library as synonymous with the building that it’s held in. For most of it’s history, that’s how people thought of Edmonton Public Libraries: as a variety of brick and mortar educational institutions. But Edmonton has changed, and the library is changing with it. Communities are expanding faster than those buildings can be built, so the library must come to them. In 2014, Edmonton Public Library’s Literacy van, a mobile library, hit the road.
“We service areas of the city that are underserved,” said Pamela Fong, Community Librarian at Edmonton Public Library Literacy Vans. In a sprawling city, underserved has a few definitions. “It might be underserved geographically,” Pamela said. “A lot of the places we're visiting on a weekly basis are further than five kilometres away from a branch.” These are often newly developed areas in the southern or northern-most sides of the city with little amenities even beyond a library. In the summer, these vans set up shop in parks. “In the summertime we set up outside,” Pamela said. “We have tents, we have benches, and we have equipment that we'd bring into a particular space.” In the winter, however, it’s difficult to find a brick and mortar space to set up for just an evening in some of these communities, let alone an entire library branch.
But there are other barriers to the services Edmonton Public Library provides that the Literacy Van can accommodate for. And this is where the partnership between the Edmonton Public Library and Free Footie comes in. Free Footie and the Literacy Van program occupy the same demographic. “Edmonton Public Library aims to provide services to anybody that might be seen to have barriers,” Pamela said. For Free Footie, this includes families that may have no experience with Edmonton Public Library, or a library system in general. This season EPL had it's staff and vans make weekly rounds to 7 different Free Footie locations. Free Footie is organized so about 300 kids per week play in each location, making it a perfect place for kids to see the library in a different way. Tim Adams is the founder of Free Footie.
"I put in the call to the library to start this partnership because I've always seen soccer as the vehicle for something bigger. I don't care about the wins on the pitch, i care about the big picture wins. How can we leverage the kids love to play to build their resume of life skills and knowledge of resources in the city? How can we leverage the game to reach the kid's families, so they get something more out of the game too? To me, play is a basic right and so is access to a library. I was so excited when the EPL jumped on board with the idea."
The vans carry technology found in EPL’s branches, a collection of books, and even musical instruments. “We offer a wide variety of things,” Pamela Fong said. “We offer a popup library: anybody can come and use the ipads or the laptops and we have free wifi. We often bring out some musical instruments, so we’ve had some kids jamming along on our ukuleles.” Parents or siblings of those in Free Footie programs can browse the book selection or use the internet while the little footballers do their thing on the field.
The folks operating the Literacy Van program carry the same enthusiasm with them for Free Footie as they do for their own organization. After all, Free Footie helps people in the same way that their program does. Working together, they hope they can compound the good they do for these communities. “It’s a group of people that we might not be reaching otherwise,” Pamela said. “It's just great to touch base and collaborate and provide services that they might not necessarily have.”
Written by: Patrick Connolly Photos by: Catherine Page
Written by: Patrick Connolly Photo By: Catherine Page
At the beginning of Andrew Pagnotta’s soccer life, the founder of Edmonton AC Milan Soccer Club played community league soccer. His family simply couldn’t afford club.
“Financially it was difficult,” Andrew said about growing up playing soccer. “I went the community route because it was much cheaper.” In Edmonton, there are two distinct directions a young soccer player can take: community or club. Club is much more expensive than community league soccer, but it comes with the benefits of veteran coaches and guided player development. The son of Italian immigrants, Andrew’s family felt he couldn’t get serious about soccer until he was in his late teens; until he could play club.
Andrew’s experience fuelled a philosophy that he took into the Edmonton AC Milan Soccer Club when it was founded in 1999. That philosophy is one of hard work. It is one of character. It is one that values teaching life skills at the same rate as on technique on the field. When Andrew looks for players now, he looks for the values that he learned in community league soccer. “What kind of character do they have? What kind of drive do they have? What are they going to do in society?” he said.
Andrew’s philosophy extends to the very system in which his club operates. He understands that not affording to play club soccer is not the same as not being talented enough. “There’s a lot of kids who fall through the cracks financially,” Andrew said. He’s been on both sides, and, now a part of a club, Andrew is hoping that his philosophy can do more than just question this system. Maybe his philosophy can change it.
That’s where Free Footie comes in. “Once I saw a couple of things that they were doing, I said we have to get involved in this,” Andrew said. “This is exactly my philosophy in giving back to my community. It’s exactly the type of philosophy I wanted AC Milan to pursue.” Andrew and others in AC Milan are offering club-style support to kids who would have never gotten it when Andrew was coming up. He knows where these kids come from; he’s been there. For Andrew, they’re just as deserving of a coach’s time as someone paying a $750 club fee. “My parents worked very hard,” he said. “I understood the sacrifice.”
Andrew hopes that young soccer players won’t have to sacrifice professional development because of a financial situation any more in the future, even beyond Free Footie. The Edmonton AC Milan Soccer Club is now working to create a youth team for Free Footie players that has little to no registration fee. One that uses the same facilities and coaches as the clubs he couldn’t afford to be in as a kid. “We want to get it to the point where these kids can still get to that high level without breaking the bank,” Andrew said. He’s hoping his club will start a trend that ends the financial barrier between club and community. “I don’t see how it has to be that way,” he said. “It’s something that’s really strong in my heart.”
What I love most about Edmonton is that we are not only a city of people that care, but a city of people that act.
When help is needed, it's always there.
Over the last 8 years of Free Footie, thousands of people have rallied in support of our 1300 kids to make sure they can get on the field.
We know that the opportunity to play, as cliche as it may sound, changes lives. We're told that by parents, coaches and the kids themselves.
For many kids, it's the only chance they'll ever have to play on a team.
We've tried really hard over the years to fight through the politics and keep the focus on the best interest of the kids. To keep it grassroots, so everyone who volunteers or donates sees their time and money make a direct impact. You can see, watch and meet the kids you help. You can also see them change because of you.
Personally, i really believe our team sponsorship opportunity follows that same grassroots ethos. For $1000 you buy a team. What that means is your money supplies the equipment, transportation and coach training for a whole team of kids! In return, you logo is emblazoned across the chest of the jerseys and you've now got your own team to follow and support!
We like it so much because $1000 is a fairly reasonable amount for smaller businesses and groups to get involved. We want to be accessible to the local corner store, to the booming number of startups and restaurants as well as individuals. We also think it's a great way for larger organizations to test us out and see if they might like to join as a league wide sponsors. (Check out all the businesses and groups supporting us here. )
I am writing this blog now because we have just opened up 12 more team sponsorship spots for the summer and we are trying to find those sponsors by June 2 (in 4 days!!). That's because we are expanding our programming this year and adding summer camps! These are open camps for all kids for a paid fee as a fundraiser for a program, but we are also trying to find sponsors to send teams of 10 Free Footie kids to camp!
We know that summer can be a really hard time for our kids. A lot of their support systems disappear, including us. Our season follows the school calendar, so we are done at the end of the June. Further, many other summer camps don't provide transportation and we've learned that transportation is the single biggest barrier to participation.
So, we've put together a camp throughout July where kids will work with olympians, professional athletes and varsity athletes from MacEwan University. Soccer is the carrot each day, but the focus of the camp is fun, confidence and leadership. We will be build character because we know that instilling a hard work attitude will get kids further than anything else.
The Free Footie kids get free transportation to and from the camp as well as a healthy lunch served by Cafe Blackbird. We have an indoor/outdoor venue so we never have to cancel on the kids. The camps run from 8:30-5:00pm in an attempt to help accommodate the work schedule of parents and really keep kids busy.
It's ver easy for you to help. All you have to do is click this link and donate. You can donate your $1000 online or by cheque. If a team is too much, join the list of individuals you see on the donation page who are chipping in. We are proud to say some new sponsors, and some existing sponsors, have signed on already to help at our summer camp!!
Thank you, Tim - Free Footie Founder and Organizer (volunteer)
Matrix Hotel is offering up accommodations for our visiting celebrity coach Karina LeBlanc. Karina is the longest serving member of the Canadian Women's National Soccer team and an Olympic bronze medalist. She'll be coaching at our camp.
Transcend Coffee is sponsoring another team! Poul Mark and the Transcend team are sponsoring one of our Free Footie league teams already this year and they are now helping us send a team of 10 kids to summer camp! Thank you for the continued support!
Prairie Gold Scaffolding is one of our biggest supporters. They are sponsoring 7 teams this year and have graciously committed to sponsoring 2 Footie Camp teams!! Huge thank to George, Elsa and Gus!
The Oil Capital Kiwanis Club is a new Free Footie sponsor this year and the fine folks there have generously committed to sponsoring a Footie Camp team as well! Thank you to Hazel Gillis for her continued support!
Dr. Saljae Aurora is generously donating funds to sponsor a team of 10 Free Footie kids to attend the camp. We're proud to bring new sponsor onto the Free Footie team!
Lynn Heard, formerly of the Unheardof Restaurant has been a sponsor of Free Footie since it's inception. She sold her business, but that hasn't stop her from supporting the kids. Lynn's mother recently passed away, so a Footie Camp team is being sponsored in her honour. For the last 15 years she was called GG, short for Great Grandma, and was a superhero, so our graphics guy came up with a fitting logo!
Reach Edmonton is a huge believer and supporter of Free Footie both financially and with organizational support. We're proud to have the team behind us for Footie Camp!
BUY A BALL... we've been flooded with requests from people wanting to buy a ball! We'll do a mass order & then contact you when they arrive & make them available for pickup in Edmonton. Sorry, we CANNOT ship or deliver. Orders of 10+ balls email: email@example.com
This $30 covers our costs + a small donation to our program. You can also donate here to buy a pair of shin guards for $5 or for $250 send a kid to summer camp!
Our little soccer program is turning its order of 1000+ soccer balls into a showcase of Indigenous art, culture and history.
If you dont know, we are a totally free soccer program for 1300 kids in need. The kids get everything required to play including free jerseys, shin guards, coaching, transportation to and from games and a ball.
“A soccer ball is a prized possession for the kids in Free Footie,” says Tim Adams, founder and volunteer organizer of the free soccer program. “The kids will take it everywhere they go, so why not use it as more than just something to shoot, pass and dribble? I've always wanted to use the ball as a way of teaching the kids something beyond soccer.”
This year they’ve teamed up with Cree/Metis artist Dawn Marie Marchand to create the “Edmonton Treaty 6 soccer ball.” Marchand transforms panels of the ball into Edmonton’s river valley. The design includes the city skyline, the North Saskatchewan River and 13 different coloured horses running towards each other. Each horse depicts a different First Nation in the Edmonton area. Marchand’s design shows Edmonton’s river valley as a gathering place and helps us understand who makes up Edmonton’s story.
“Sometimes people just think we are all the same,” says Marchand. “That we speak the same language and that we have the same way of doing things and that’s not necessarily true. It’s important to understand the people that are around you. We want to get to that place where we know who our neighbours are.”
We believe Free Footie is a perfect venue for the 'Edmonton Treaty 6 soccer ball' to start rolling. Kids in our program are refugees, newcomers as well as from First Nations around the city, and they all share a love of the game. It’s a perfect conversation piece on the sidelines, in the classroom and at home. Free Footie Founder Tim Adams hopes this helps break down barriers.
“Our kids are amazing, they don’t care where you come from, what colour you are or what language you speak – they just want to play. I thought this was another chance for our kids to show how they can be role models for the city. To take a lead and learn a little more about who we are. We all know a little understanding can go a long way.”
The balls are free for the kids, but not free to make, so ATB Financial stepped up to help and is sponsoring the production.
"There has been so much thought behind the design to create a ball that is a reflection of our community and the children who will enjoy it,” says Sandra Huculak of ATB Financial. “It is special because it tells a story and is an opportunity to celebrate our history.”
The ball’s design is already receiving high praise from the Faculty of Native Studies at the University of Alberta. Jodi Stonehouse with the faculty loves the ball so much she has ordered 40 to share.
"The soccer ball with Dawn Marie's artwork serves as a symbol or relationship building. When we gift these soccer balls we will be able to tell this story to remind our youth of their relationship to each other, the land and to the Treaty itself."
A sample soccer ball, complete with the design printed on it is now in Edmonton to be seen and shared. The full order of balls will arrive in late April and be given out to the kids to be used on the field. Dawn Marie will be available to any of the Free Footie teams that want to learn more about the story being told on the ball. Kids will also be directed to this page where they can learn more about each element of the ball.
Free Footie is a free soccer league for the highest needs kids in Edmonton. It started 8 years ago with 4 teams and 80 kids now there’s 76 teams and 1300 kids. It's run entirely by volunteers. There are no registration fees and every child is given a pair or shin pads, soccer socks, shorts, a ball and a jersey. Our mandate: to ensure any kid that wants to play, can.
Ball manufacturing can be an exploitative business. Our ball is fair trade produced by Volo Athletics to ensure there's no child labour, fair wages and proper working conditions.
1. Yellow, Red, White patches and Blue background: these represent Treaty 6
2. River valley and city sky line: The Edmonton river valley was considered a gathering place where many Nations would come together, so Dawn Marie depicted the Nations coming together as horses
3. 8 horses on the right = the Nations closest to Edmonton
a. 4 horses with bear paws = Maskwacis: Samson, Louis Bull, Ermineskin and Montana Cree Nations
b. Horse with Tipis = Enoch Cree Nation
c. Horse with Green Lines = Alexander Cree Nation
d. 4 Dots with arrows from the south = Paul First Nation Cree and Nakota Sioux
e. Arrows coming up from south = Alexis Nakota Sioux First Nation
4. 5 horses on the left = those who have gathered here and stayed
a. Red, Green, Yellow and Blue = The Metis Nations
b. Red with Black legs = The Blackfoot nations
c. Inukshuk = The Inuit
d. Dark Trees = The Dene Nations
e. 3 Dots = The Anishnaabe Nations
5. Horses in the sky = the Papaschase and Michel Caillehoo Band which were once located on the South and North West sides of Edmonton.
I grew up playing soccer in the days when every business got behind a team.
I played for "Ray's Meat" - a local butcher shop.
I played for "Dj's variety" - the corner store with just about everything you can imagine in it.
I played for "Fraser's" - the men's clothing and suit store.
And, probably my favourite..."Godfathers" - the local pizza shop in town.
The busineses hung team pictures of us in their shop windows, and sometimes, if we were really good, they treated us to a pizza or a pop.
It really was all about community and it seemed like everyone knew when it was game day - a friendly wager between shops wasn't unheard-of.
This season, Free Footie is trying to get back to that idea.
We are making it affordable for anyone to support a team.
For $1000 you can cover the cost of soccer for an entire team - that's 30 kids in need who otherwise wouldn't be playing.
In return, we'll proudly put your company or group logo on that team's jerseys and you are now the owner of your very own soccer team.
We're hoping that you'll have a little fun with it too - maybe challenge a shop beside you to sponsor a team, come out and cheer your team on at games, or invite the kids to your business to see what you do.
We'd love for you to be the next "Godfathers" or "Ray's Meat" :)
Please head to the donation page for more specifics or send an email: firstname.lastname@example.org
All the best, Tim
We are very excited that every player this year will receive a soccer ball. We designed it to look just like our logo and worked with a fair trade company to get them made. They turned out perfectly and we're sure the kids will love them. Thanks to all those who donated!!!
In the last couple of weeks of December 2013 we lost some very big sponsors. They were providing Free Footie with about $40,000 to put towards everything from equipment, to coach education, volunteer appreciation, transportation and fun prizes for the kids. That amount of funding is about how much it costs us to run an entire season of soccer for 1,000 kids. It's a lot of money for a small group of volunteers to try and come up with, but I'm not going to dwell on it or lay blame. I'm going to move on, stay positive and know that we have a supportive community around us including sponsors such as REACH Edmonton and ATB Financial.
Fortunately, this loss doesn't completely sink us. We should have just enough to make it through this season, provided we raise the $11,000 for the balls. However, it's going to leave us in a difficult spot for future years because we will start at nearly zero.
One of our business minded board members, Mark, has been smart to insist we always try stay one year ahead when it comes to fundraising. This is to make sure that if we have a rough go with fundraising, soccer doesn't all of a sudden disappear for 1,000 kids who need what the game can offer. This planning has saved the coming spring 2014 season for the kids and it gives us time to start working for 2015 and beyond.
So, if you would like to get involved - now is the time. Please visit the "donate" page. We have an immediate need to raise $11,000 to pay for soccer balls this season. We have to order those soon to ensure they get here on time. We also have plenty of opportunities from $5 donations to $1,500 or $50,000. Those can come with great ways for you to get exposure in the community through branding on our jerseys, soccer balls, schedules, medals and helping out at games or our year end tournament.
Thank you for your time and consideration.
Tim Adams - Free Footie Board President & Founder
We have a website!!!!
After years of pigeon carriers Free Footie has officially made the jump to the land of tweets and hashtags and officially created their very own website - it's amazing what can be accomplished now that the season is finally over!
This website will serve as our main contact point for all things Free Footie including schedules, results, weather cancellations and eventually practice plans and drills!
Of course this will also help us get Free Footie out into the community so please share it with your friends!
- Free Footie BOD