VANCOUVER, BC – Earlier this month Vancouver Whitecaps FC helped open the Snaw-naw-as Strong Mini-Pitch, in partnership with Hope and Health, Snaw-Naw-As and Kw’umut Lelum Child and Family Services in Lantzville, BC.
The Snaw-naw-as Strong Mini-Pitch is the second completed mini-pitch in a series of pitches across Indigenous communities. The first pitch opened last September in partnership with the Penelakut Tribe.
"We are honoured to be welcomed into the Snaw-naw-as community and very thankful for our continued partnership with the Hope and Health mini-pitch series," said Axel Schuster, Whitecaps FC chief executive officer. “As a club, two of our key priorities are to build stronger communities and grow the game across Canada. The first mini-pitch in Penelakut continues to be a massive success and we are now excited to see the children play and practice their soccer skills on this beautiful pitch."
These pitches provide innovative, high quality and inspiring play environments to engage Indigenous children and youth in the beautiful game.
Snaw-naw-as Chief Gordon Edwards describes the pitch as a place where kids will be able to build friendships, comradeship and discipline all while doing it in a professional setting, something the community hasn't had in it's previous history.
"We've gone from grassy fields to muddy fields to a well-constructed site where our young people can have a good start in," explained Edwards, "We got something that will encourage our young people."
Snaw-naw-as are located in Nanoose Bay, British Columbia. The community, along with 18 other tribes in the Salish Sea, are Coast Salish people, and one of the most northern tribes on the east side of Vancouver Island.
Bill Yoachim, co-founder and board member of Hope and Health, echoed the importance of bringing the community together through sport.
"This court is going to be open to all, sport has no colour," stated Yoachim, "This is what it's all about, making these kids feel comfortable as long as there's a ball on the field, kids of all sorts come together and all become one."
Whitecaps FC head coach Vanni Sartini, defender Jake Nerwinski and wingback Ryan Raposo all made the trip to Lantzville for the opening of the mini-pitch, taking part in games with youth and signing autographs during the day.
“I think it's a special moment for the community to come together and especially through sport, I think it's a great opportunity for all the young kids to play," said Raposo, "I wish I had this as a kid growing up, I would've been here everyday so I think it's awesome for them."
"It just shows what kind of organization the Whitecaps is, especially to Indigenous communities, this is a part of Reconciliation that we can all be a part of, it's our first step to giving back to communities that haven't had that much and have had a lot taken away from them so this is something that's extremely important and I'm really excited to be a part of it," said Nerwinski.
Along with the Penelakut and Snaw-naw-as mini-pitches, Whitecaps FC will complete the installation of the third pitch in partnership with the Stz'uminus First Nation in the fall.
"The Whitecaps have been absolutely amazing from day one," said Yoachim, "Because of the Whitecaps' contribution, we're going to have six of these [mini-pitches] in our community, we're going to be able to have some leagues happening, community pride and spirit and make a fun competition where people can come out."
About Hope and Health
The Hope and Health movement utilizes the beautiful game of soccer and mentorship to inspire hope, as well as improve the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health and life conditions for Indigenous children and youth. Our team is committed to come together as one heart, one mind to maximize sport as a tool for reconciliACTION in relation to the Canadian Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls To Action, specific to Sports and Reconciliation (87-91). Our vision is for Indigenous children and youth to carry themselves with pride and confidence, achieve their highest potential and dream big.