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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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.

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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