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

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!!!!