Free Hockey Launches!!

After 10 years of providing soccer, we’ve officially branched out to include Free Hockey!

Our goal is simply to give kids a chance to play another sport and introduce them to a game Canada is crazy about. We hope that playing a little hockey might make it easier to join in on the conversation on the playground or at the bus stop when everyone is talking about last night’s Oilers game.

To help with that, we kicked off the season by teaming up with former Edmonton Oilers Captain Andrew Ference. He helped us deliver the hockey sticks and jerseys as well as teach the kids how to tape. We used tape provided by the amazing folks at Pride Tape.

We are so thankful to sponsors such as Jumpstart, which provided all the sticks for free.

We are also incredibly thankful to all the teachers, principals and staff members at our 50 partner schools who are volunteering their time to coach and spend more quality time with the kids.

Thank you!!!

We also got the chance to talk about our program and partnership with Pride Tape on Global News and with the Edmonton Journal.





Laughing For The Little Guy

By Michael Hingston

Andrew Grose is a little distracted. Every couple of minutes, the veteran stand-up comic and producer of the Edmonton Comedy Festival’s phone buzzes, and he keeps glancing over at it. But these aren’t texts coming in—they’re notifications of new ticket sales. “Nice, eh?” he says with a smile.


                Managing the festival -- with its six-figure budget, more than a dozen shows and comedians from across North America -- is a long way from Grose’s start in stand-up. 25 years ago, he was the MBA- wielding general manager of a trucking company who was a last-minute replacement at an amateur comedy show. It seemed like it might be fun, so Grose went up there—and promptly bombed. “There’s a big difference between being witty at a cocktail party and actually going onstage,” he says now. “There’s a structure to stand-up comedy that I didn’t understand.”

                So Grose went home and applied his analytical business brain to the art of stand-up. He watched other comedians, broke down how their jokes worked, rewrote his own act, then tried again. And again.

                To this day, Grose thinks of his material in an orderly grid: each square represents a joke that takes one minute to tell, with one square leading into the next, and the whole thing able to be shuffled around depending on his audience or how much time he has. “I have more spreadsheets than any other comedian in the country, I swear,” Grose says.

                In its first year, the comedy festival debuted a show featuring members of the media. The idea was that they would all try stand-up for the first time, and a charity of the winner’s choice would receive $1,000 from the show’s ticket sales. CBC Radio Edmonton’s Mark Connolly won that first year and named Free Footie as his charity.

                Soon afterwards, Grose—who had since become a radio host himself, for 630 CHED—had Free Footie founder Tim Adams on his show and was blown away by the effect the organization was having on disadvantaged kids in Edmonton. So, in a moment of pure enthusiasm, Grose announced on-air that as long as he was running the festival, Free Footie would get that $1,000 donation every single year. And it has ever since.

                “I’m a big advocate for the little guy,” Grose says. “I like giving a voice to people who don’t have voices. Things have worked out for me, so I’ve got to keep continually filling my karma bank back up again. This is the perfect way to do it.

“It’s one thing to say on a spreadsheet that we put $1,000 towards a local charity,” he adds. “But it’s another thing to actually hand out the product and see the outcome.” Grose would know. After all, it involved a spreadsheet.


Anthem United: Building Strong Foundations for Edmonton Kids

By Jessy Robb

The success story of any building begins with the foundation. When planning out the base for a development, there’s a lot of research, planning, and due diligence on the initial steps before construction can even begin. A foundation must be strong, able to withstand the unexpected, and most importantly, be able to stand on it’s own.

But, it’s not just buildings that need a solid base in order to grow up and transform into the beautiful buildings that line our streets and provide backdrops for so many of our memories. The same can be said for kids.

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Anthem United is a land development and home building company that supported Free Footie at Footie Camp this summer. The two share a common goal: bringing people (whether they be kids or adults) to their fullest potential. “Solid foundations increase the chances of children becoming productive, happy adults. We want to contribute so these foundation building opportunities are accessible to more kids,” says Simona Diep, Anthem United’s Sales and Marketing Manager in Edmonton.

Anthem United believes that problems within the community cannot just depend on government funding alone, but should also be addressed with the help of private enterprises. By working together and combining resources, Anthem United strongly believes that the world become a better place, faster. One of their areas of focus is at-risk youth, and it’s through community investment in athletics, the arts, and health that Anthem United hopes to help young people achieve their fullest potential.

Passion, creativity, teamwork, do what you say, say what you mean, and results are the six values Anthem United hold. Combined this with their philosophy of philanthropy makes Free Footie and Anthem United a perfect match.

“We love that Free Footie is reaching out to youth who may not have the opportunity to participate in a sport and therefore are also providing valuable experiences with teamwork, self-discipline, and building confidence,” says Diep.

Kids are the future of this world, and it’s important to ensure that they’re given all the necessary tools to flourish in the world. Free Footie was started to ensure that any girl or boy in Grades 3, 4, 5, or 6 who attends schools in the areas served and wants to play soccer, can. Reaching even further than just the soccer field, Free Footie provides these kids with an outlet, escape, and a way to direct their energy and ambitions in positive ways.

Free Footie makes it easy for any kid to get in the game.

Anthem United helps make the game possible.

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Canadian Paralympian Visits Footie Camp!

By Thomas Feth

The players at Footie Camp this week were visited by Canadian Paralympian Angelena Dolezar to discuss perseverance and determination in sport. After a long soccer career which included playing up to the women's Premier level in Edmonton, Angelena lost one of her legs due to an accident in 2013, ending her soccer career. 


"I was pretty sad, but I used that experience to set even bigger goals for myself."

- Angelena Dolezar


"Soccer was my life. I still love soccer and I watch it all the time even though I can't play anymore," Angelena told the players.

After losing her leg and witnessing the end of her soccer career, Angelena made a quick transition to playing a new sport - sitting volleyball - in 2015. By 2016, Angelena was already a player on the Canadian Women's Sitting Volleyball Team at the Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. 

Speaking on her transition to sitting volleyball, Angelena shared that "it took a lot of motivation. I started playing sitting volleyball in 2015, and then within a year I was able to close the gap and advance my skills to be able to get to this level. Learning sitting volleyball was pretty hard for me, but I decided to train really really hard in order to get to Rio."

In fact, before the Paralympics, Angelena won a Bronze Medal with the Canadian Women's Sitting Volleyball Team at the Parapan American Games in 2015. Despite making it to Rio with Team Canada, Angelena suffered a concussion before any games were played.

Speaking to the players, Angeline shared that "I didn't get to play at all in Rio, and I had to sit on the sidelines for the whole tournament. So not only did I get into a crash which resulted in me not being able to play soccer anymore, I trained really hard to go to a tournament and got myself hurt. I was pretty sad, but I used that experience to set even bigger goals for myself."

Despite all of Angelena's set backs, she is determined to play at the next Paralympic games in 2020 in Japan.

"Even though I got hurt in Rio, I'm not letting it affect my training. I had to take my sadness and frustration and push it away because it's super important for me to represent my country. I want to use all the challenges I've faced to motivate and push myself."

After discussing her soccer career, her injury, perseverance, and her time with the Canadian Women's Sitting Volleyball Team with the players at Footie Camp, Angelena said:

"I think it's really important for kids to learn about challenging situations, because for many young kids it's hard to imagine living through the experience that I went through. I wanted them to know that even after all I've been through, it's still possible to move on and go on to bigger and better things despite the circumstances."

You Can Play at Footie Camp!

By Thomas Feth

During Footie Camp 2017, ambassadors from You Can Play, an organization dedicated to "ensuring safety and inclusion for all those who participate in sports", will be visiting each week to discuss inclusivity and respect for others with the players. As part of their mission, You Can Play believes that sports should focus on "a player's skills, work ethic, and competitive spirit," not their identity.

Players are visited by Kevin, a Western Regional Board Member for You Can Play, and Cheryl, the Co-Chair of the Western Regional Board and Postdoctoral Researcher from the University of Alberta. Kevin and Cheryl talked to the players about soccer, having fun, teamwork, cooperation, being Canadian, and take on themes of respecting difference, embracing equality, and celebrating diversity. Afterwards, I chatted with Kevin about his talk with the players. 

"We want everyone to recognize that equality is important. It's important to celebrate our diversity. There's a handful of kids here at camp who weren't born in Canada, and they likely understand the feeling of alienation. Sometimes they may feel left out, and it's important to remember that sports can be an escape."

This likely rings true for many of the kids coming to camp this summer, especially as refugee and immigrant children will make up a significant portion of the players.

"The last thing we want is for kids to be someplace where people are still alienating them just because they're seen as different. It doesn't matter where you came from, who you are, or what you do. We're all one in the same. We're all here in this country together and we're all here to have fun and play the game."

Kevin also spoke more specifically about You Can Play, and what the organization strives to achieve with regard to sports.

"What You Can Play does is that we partner with professional sports organizations to spread the message that if you can play, you can play. It's a simple message, but it's important to make sure that we are all treated equally. It doesn't matter if you are tall or short, or have two moms or two dads, we're all one in the same and if you want to play, you can play. That's the message we want to hammer home."

Kevin also stressed how important it is for young kids to be able to have access to new experiences and opportunities to grow like those offered by Footie Camp.

"Free Footie is an unbelievable organization. I wish Footie Camp was around when I was a kid, not only from a soccer perspective, but also because I wish I had learned how to be comfortable with being different. These kids are getting an awesome education both in soccer terms, and in being able to leave as a better person."

Footie Camp is looking forward to more visits from You Can Play this summer, and beyond.

YCP Logo.jpg

People of Free Footie: Canada Day Edition

By Thomas Feth

We are delighted to present these stories, but please appreciate that some names may have been changed at the request of parents, teachers, or the kids themselves.

On the last Free Footie day of 2017, a final tournament was hosted at Belmont School which featured an array of school teams from Edmonton’s inner city. By watching just a few of the matches, it becomes clear that the diversity of the players is one of Free Footie’s most celebrated features. As one coach put it, “it’s amazing to see the diversity of all the kids. This is the future of our city here today and it’s incredible.”

One of the main groups which contributes to this diversity are newcomers to Canada, two of whom being Samer and Muhammad, who both came from Syria in 2016. Between November 2015 and February 2016, 25,000 Syrian refugees were admitted and resettled in Canada. Two of these refugees were Samer and Muhammad, who both arrived in February with their families. Before coming to Canada, Samer and his family crossed the Syrian border to Lebanon and lived in an airport for a while, while Muhammad and his family journeyed from Syria to Egypt through Jordan before being admitted into Canada.

“They’ve both seen a lot and they’ve come so far. They actually went to The Family Centre the other day with some of the other Syrian kids and spoke to an audience about where they came from and their struggles,” one of their coaches told me.

While both boys endured a great deal on their eventual path to Canada, they have finally settled in Edmonton and now have their first season with Free Footie under their belt. Despite the circumstances of where they came from, Samer and Muhammad are both incredibly good-natured, engaging, and compassionate young boys who became friends after they met in school.

While Samer is quite an animated kid with a big smile and laugh, Muhammad is more reserved, but they both love to play, laugh, and be together. “When I came to Canada I did not know how to play soccer or speak English. But my heart told me soccer is a good sport. It is the best game. I met my new best friend by playing soccer,” Samer told me.

One of Samer’s coaches was especially enthusiastic about Samer’s affection with soccer. “Playing organized sports is an amazing way for young newcomers like Samer and Muhammad to learn how to communicate in a new language and make new friends… a lot of the parents see playing soccer as a way of becoming more Canadian.”

At the same time, while many of the parents of refugees who play would love to attend the matches, it can difficult due to timing. Samer’s and Muhammad’s parents occasionally come out to watch games, but usually cannot.

“A lot of the parents spend their daytimes learning English, which means they’re super busy during the day which makes it difficult to come out.” Regardless, both parents and kids are undoubtedly thankful for the opportunity Free Footie provides.

“They love Free Footie. They’re cool boys and they really appreciate it.”

Organized sports can help provide young newcomers to Canada with friends, a community, and a sense of belonging which may have been lost after leaving their home country. Despite everything they’ve been through, Samer and Muhammad are exemplary kids both on and off the pitch, but above all, they love to play.

You can send a kid like Samer or Muhammed to Footie Camp for $250. For more info click the button below!

Canada 150: The Story of a Ball

Since 2014 VOLO Athletics has been producing branded soccer balls for Free Footie. Tim Adams, founder of Free Footie, called us due to the fair trade aspect of our products. He felt this was an important element that aligned with his values and the ethos of the soccer program he created. The fair trade component of our soccer balls refers to the labour that goes into making them. In 1996 soccer ball production was exposed for using child labour when LIFE Magazine published an article with a young boy stitching a Nike soccer ball. 

Fairtrade International stepped in to create guidelines, which today stand to assure against the use of child labour, offer fair wages to the adult workers and funding for social programs from every ball. VOLO pays those funds, the ‘fair trade premium’, into a separate account that is owned and controlled by the employees and they decide by committee how to spend those funds.

There have been a variety of uses that help raise the standard of living for these employees. Access to fresh water, basic health care like eye exams and diabetes tests, and purchasing school supplies for their children are examples of such programs supported by fair trade premiums.

VOLO Athletics is proud to have been working with Free Footie because they work to bring soccer to hundreds of kids who otherwise wouldn’t be able to play. This aspiration aligns with my motivations as the founder of VOLO Athletics – I want to help people. In my case, it’s empowering people in the fight against poverty. In a similar spirit, Free Footie is empowering youth through soccer to learn new skills on the pitch which they can apply to their every day life off the pitch. Soccer is a great platform for that.

Taking it a step further, in 2016 Tim wanted to use the ball as an even greater message by inviting indigenous visual artists to create the artwork which would be incorporated into the design of the ball.

The first ball, designed by Cree Métis mixed media artist, Dawn Marie Marchand, was a remarkable success. The community embraced the message this ball provided resulting in enormous attention for Free Footie, their program and Dawn Marie. The ball even managed to get it in the hands of our Prime Minister!

This year, Jason Carter, one of Canada’s most exciting and accomplished contemporary Aboriginal visual artists has design the ball. It looks beautiful and is sure to turn heads both on and off the pitch.

It’s this inclusive approach to the way in which Free Footie operates their program that drives me to want to continue to be involved with them. Pushing for fair trade, commissioning indigenous artists to showcase their talent and stories, and welcoming youth who otherwise wouldn’t play the game – great aspirations they’ve made happen with an otherwise simple soccer ball.

Soccer has long since been a conduit by which a variety of issues travel beyond the game itself and Free Footie is tapping into that to channel some very positive messages. Thanks for including VOLO in your work!

James Milligan, MBA

Founder & President

VOLO Athletics Inc.

Vancouver, Canada

People of Free Footie: Hayley, Alexander, and Lindsey

By Jessica Robb

We are delighted to present these stories, but please appreciate that some names may have been changed at the request of parents, teachers, or the kids themselves.

For a lot of the kids involved with Free Footie, the program offers a chance that they wouldn't normally have: to play organized soccer. With registration fees, equipment, uniforms and transportation, the cost can add up quickly...especially when you have more that one kid involved.

Hayley and Alexander are fraternal twins in grade 3. Both stepped on the field for the first time two years ago with Free Footie.

"This was something [Alexander] really wanted to do, but at first [Hayley] was like 'I'm not sure about this whole thing', so I told them that if one plays both have to play," says their mother, Lindsay.

And since that first game neither twin has regretted their decision to join!

With another set of three-year-old twins, Lindsay can't express enough how grateful she is for programs like Free Footie. Giving her children, and many others, the opportunity to play an organized sport is just one of many reason Lindsay fully supports the program.

Another is the social aspect.

"Hayley is a really outgoing person. She makes friends easily. But Alexander's speech problems sort of impede on his friendships, and he gets frustrated and angry. But, here they're playing with all their friends after school and building those friendships. They love it!" says Lindsey.

Watching the two play together is an adorable sight. With Alexander in net and Hayley as his defender the family duo work extremely well together. As Hayley puts it "I support him and he supports me. I like it a lot."

But when Alexander said the same, Hayley was quick to call him out.

"That was a lie! You did that twin look when we lie!"

So the 9-year-old corrected himself, "I like being on my sister's team only because it's kind of like we stick together and we help each other out. On the field and in practice." This time, there was no call-out from his sister, so we'll take that as the truth...

I spent a lot of the game talking to Lindsey. We talked about the importance of kids playing sports and how she used to tear up the Lauderdale soccer fields when she was in grade six.

But our conversation took a bit of a turn towards the end.

"Hayley and Alexander were actually fraternal triplets, but I lost one. One for God and two for us, right? And Hayley, she actually died on the table at birth...and they brought her back. She's our miracle girl," says Lindsey.

As the game finished and the twins ran over to their mom screaming their winning score at the top of their lungs, I couldn't help but smile. Meeting Hayley you never would have guess that she had been revived at birth, or that Alexander had a speech problem. Talking to them about soccer and their love for the sport brought out this excitement that was nothing short of contagious.

Free Footie wasn't just a game to was an outlet. It was a way to get active, make friends, and strengthen their bond as siblings. These are important skills to have and foster while kids are young. I hadn't put it together that Free Footie could offer this larger skill set to kids, but through our conversation on the sideline that afternoon, Lindsey really helped me to understand this.

You can send a kid like Stephanie to Footie Camp for $250. For more info click the button below!

16 Things I Learned in 2016

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.


Reach Edmonton - the backbone supporter of Free Footie!

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.”

Adele Towns of Reach Edmonton is one our biggest supporters. She, and the rest of the REACH team, have believed in us every step of the way. They love the kids & this city. REACH is one of the main reasons Free Footie exists today and we owe them so much for their backing, motivation and challenging us to be better. Thank you for the last 5 years! Here's to many more!

Adele Towns of Reach Edmonton is one our biggest supporters. She, and the rest of the REACH team, have believed in us every step of the way. They love the kids & this city. REACH is one of the main reasons Free Footie exists today and we owe them so much for their backing, motivation and challenging us to be better. Thank you for the last 5 years! Here's to many more!

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.”

Reach Edmonton is helping support Footie Camp this July! It's our first ever summer soccer camp and allows us to extend the league we run during the school years. Featured in this photo are Karina LeBlanc, the former goal keeper of the Canadian Women's National Soccer Team, and one of our awesome athletes. 

Reach Edmonton is helping support Footie Camp this July! It's our first ever summer soccer camp and allows us to extend the league we run during the school years. Featured in this photo are Karina LeBlanc, the former goal keeper of the Canadian Women's National Soccer Team, and one of our awesome athletes. 

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.

The REACH logo is displayed on all of our Free Footie jerseys in recognition of the tremendous support we get.    

The REACH logo is displayed on all of our Free Footie jerseys in recognition of the tremendous support we get.    

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

$20,000 Donation from TELUS Edmonton Community Board!!!!

Big, huge, massive, amazing news - 100 Free Footie Kids going to soccer camp.

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!!!!

Soccer + Literacy = Win! Partnership with EPL brings library pitch side

Free Footie & the Edmonton Public Library team up to bring fact & fiction to the field!

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.

The literacy van at our game - looking good!

The literacy van at our game - looking good!

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 literacy vans park just off to the side of the fields, so they're right in there with the action.

The literacy vans park just off to the side of the fields, so they're right in there with the action.

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.

Love how this photo captures the games going on in the background while the sisters and brothers who are little too young for Free Footie play with the amazing EPL staff! #family 

Love how this photo captures the games going on in the background while the sisters and brothers who are little too young for Free Footie play with the amazing EPL staff! #family 

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.”

Sport can be so much more! Look what partnerships will bring to the side of field. More please!

Sport can be so much more! Look what partnerships will bring to the side of field. More please!

Written by: Patrick Connolly  Photos by: Catherine Page

Andrew Pagnotta - Giving the gift of Football

Edmonton AC Milan Soccer Club working to develop Free Footie talent into club teams

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 and his daughter. Footie runs in the family :)

Andrew and his daughter. Footie runs in the family :)

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.”

Hey local businesses, join our team!

$1000 helps a team of 10 kids in need go to summer camp. Your logo will be featured on our jerseys!! #winwin

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. 

Check out our Twitter, Instagram and Facebook for more photos!!!

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!





Your logo here!!!!

Announcing the "Edmonton Treaty 6 Ball"

Buy Edmonton Treaty 6 Soccer Ball

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:

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!

1000+ soccer balls transformed into showcase of Indigenous art, culture and history

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.  

Cree/Metis artist Dawn Marie Marchand

Cree/Metis artist Dawn Marie Marchand

“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.

An amazing chance encounter for Free Footie Founder Tim Adams to  show Prime Minister Justin Trudeau our amazing ball.  

An amazing chance encounter for Free Footie Founder Tim Adams to  show Prime Minister Justin Trudeau our amazing ball. 

“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.

Additional Background:

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.

What’s on the ball:

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.


BUY A SOCCER TEAM, it's cheap & fun.

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:

All the best, Tim