Vancouver Whitecaps FC players and coaches participated in the fourth annual Hope and Health in Musqueam on Monday.
Hope and Health is an all-day experience that utilizes soccer to build resilience and connection amongst Indigenous children and youth ages 4 to 18. Hope and Health was founded in 2011 by Whitecaps FC head of first team operations and facilities Ed Georgica and his wife Deana Gill-Georgica, 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.
Hope and Health is about building relationships and connection more than anything else. The bigger picture and context is around building new pathways and relationships based on mutual trust, understanding and respect with Indigenous children and their surrounding communities.
“The kids experience a professional player as a human being, making a special connection through a conversation and/or personal interaction on or off the pitch,” said Gill-Georgica, whose husband Ed is the ‘Caps head of first team operations and facilities. “The support and love that the kids receive from the players and the Hope and Health community inspires courage and confidence and overall good feelings for the kids to take with them on their journey.”
The children and youth participants are a diverse group, representing over 35 First Nation communities across BC and Canada and inclusive of Indigenous children and youth in foster care.
Over 150+ children arrived at Musqueam Park in the morning, eager and excited for the big day. Those without soccer cleats were offered the opportunity to select a brand new or gently used pair to keep. These boots were collected from the recent “Boot It Forward” boot drive campaign, supported by Whitecaps FC.
The morning saw appearances by Whitecaps FC players Jon Erice, Maxime Crépeau, Russell Teibert, Jake Nerwinski and Brett Levis. Other special guests included club ambassador Carl Valentine and Whitecaps FC head coach Marc Dos Santos. Also on hand to entertain the crowd throughout the day was Whitecaps FC mascot Spike, who was a highlight for the kids, and the adults!
Following the traditional opening ceremony, the children separated into groups to participate in skills and drills clinics with the players. Other activities throughout the day included a special performance by Musqueam hip-hop artist “Miss Christie Lee” (Christie Charles), face painting, cultural arts/crafts, soccer darts and bouncy castle.
In the afternoon, Whitecaps FC players Andy Rose, Scott Sutter and Zac MacMath all made appearances. After a hot dog barbeque for all of the children, the players showed off their skills in a high-energy game of "soccer tennis."
Not only did the children leave with new soccer gear, but also many memories to cherish. All in all, the Hope and Health Vancouver event was a success with participants winning both on and off the pitch.
Hope and Health will also be held in Nanaimo on Monday, August 19 at Merle Logan Field. The event is open to Indigenous children and youth ages 5-18. Full details at hopeandhealth.org.