Free Play for All

Free Play for Kids keeps hope alive by believing in themselves and their community

When it comes to Free Play for Kids, their relationships with the community they represent are among the most important things to them; their relationship with schools, their coaches, the school staff, and their youth workers. This is something that not even COVID-19 can break, even with all the safety and alternative avenues they’ve had to implement.

“It’s a massive change for an organization to go through in three months,” says executive Director Tim Adams. “But miraculously we’ve pulled it off and we are now running in-person and online programming every single day.”

Adams founded Free Play for Kids in 2007 while working as a journalist for CBC. Free Play for Kids provides vulnerable kids with the opportunity to play in a safe, accessible, and inclusive environment at no cost to them or their families and empowers them through play.

On June 29, Edmonton Community Foundation donated $30,000 to Free Play for Kids as part of the Government of Canada’s $350-million Emergency Community Support Fund (ECSF) to help charities and non-profit organizations adapt and increase frontline services to vulnerable people during COVID-19.

“We’re pleased to be able to support such an important program that keeps kids active and safe during the pandemic,” Nneka Otogbolu, ECF’s Director of Communications and Equity Strategy, says.

Because of this, Free Play for Kids can resume their free soccer programs for vulnerable kids and spread out activities by hiring youth workers to manage kids.

“We are now able to extend our reach so much further by offering in-person and online sessions” Adams says. “This means kids who we may not conventionally be able to offer programming to because they couldn’t get to a pickup spot for the bus, can still be part of the program. It also means that if one of our kiddos is isolating or sick or can’t make it for some reason, they can join us online.”

“How amazing everyone in the organization has been over these several months,” says Sponsorship and Marketing Manager Adriana Martinez. “We all believe in the organization’s mission and the value it brings to the community.”

It is because of these beliefs, Martinez says, that Free Play for Kids has been able to keep things going.

“Good things happen when kids are free to play. And for us, ‘play’ isn’t about sports. It’s about having a safe place to be curious, to fall, to make mistakes, to learn, to challenge, to teach and to make new friends.”

Adams has a bit of a philosophical look at the pandemic as well. It is time for personal introspection and re-evaluation. Something that has benefits beyond the personal.

“There is no room to be selfish anymore, especially for those of us who have the privilege of still being employed and have a safe roof over our heads,” he adds. “We all have to make serious sacrifices to our ‘wants’ in order to ensure others get what they need. That’s the only way we are going to move forward at all. This cuts across every job title and political spectrum.”

Learn more about ECF’s COVID-19 response.