On Thursday, August 17, Whitecaps FC players and coaches participated in the sixth annual Hope and Health event, held in Nanaimo.
Hope and Health is an all-day event that utilizes soccer to build resilience and connection amongst Aboriginal children and youth ages 5 to 18. More than just an event, Hope and Health is a movement to inspire hope, as well as improve physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health and life conditions for participants.
Hope and Health was founded in 2011 by Whitecaps FC Head of First Team Operations and NSDC, Ed Georgica and his wife Deana Gill, along with Bill Yoachim, Executive Director of Kw’umut Lelum Child and Family Services. Yoachim is also a former Whitecaps FC Community MVP nominee and league contest winner.
Over 350 children, from 20 different Nations arrived at Nanaimo’s Merle Logan Turf Fields in the morning, eager and excited for the big day. Those without soccer cleats were given a brand-new or gently worn pair to keep as part of a boot drive. Children were also given soccer balls, a jersey and soccer socks.
The morning saw appearances by Whitecaps FC players Jordan Harvey, Marcel de Jong, and Alphonso Davies. Club ambassador Carl Valentine also attended and acted as the Hope and Health emcee. Helping to entertain the crowd throughout the day was the always popular Whitecaps FC mascot, Spike.
Following a formal opening ceremony, the children separated into groups to participate in skills and drills clinics with Whitecaps FC and Vancouver Island University players. Many children had a blast jumping around on a large bouncy castle and painting hand carved mini cedar paddles. The highlight was playing soccer with their favourite players, including 16-year-old Davies who was close in age to the older Hope and Health participants.
The afternoon saw Whitecaps FC players David Ousted, Brek Shea, Erik Hurtado and Tim Parker all make appearances. After the children enjoyed a hot dog barbeque, the players showed off their skills in a high-energy game of "soccer tennis" against the VIU Mariners.
Not only did the children leave with new soccer gear, but also many memories to cherish. For more information about the event and organization, please visit www.hopeandhealth.org .