Toronto Community Housing is partnering with the MLSE Foundation, Kia Canada and Toronto FC on the 2014 season of KickStart.
Entering its third year, KickStart 2014 is bringing together over 300 kids from 15 Toronto Community Housing neighbourhoods for an eight-week soccer program.
KickStart youth amp up for the starting ceremony.
"Many young people living in Toronto Community Housing neighbourhoods face complex barriers. When they are held back, it affects the entire city," said Lenna Bradburn, Vice President, Resident and Community Services, Toronto Community Housing."However, when given the opportunity to develop the skills and confidence they need to reach their potential, the youth of our communities shine."
The program, which runs from Aug. 21 to Oct. 4, provides kids (age six to 12) with the chance to learn soccer skills while using the sport to promote skill building, self-esteem, fair play and leadership.
"All of us at Toronto FC are proud to partner with the MLSE Foundation to help deliver the KickStart program in 15 communities in need across the city," said Toronto FC captain Steven Caldwell. "People play soccer in every country around the world and it's important that every kid have an opportunity to experience how impactful sports like soccer can be."
During the KickStart program, youth practise twice a week within their communities and meet once a week to compete against other KickStart teams. The program employs 40 youth mentors (ages 15 to 20) who live in participating Toronto Community Housing neighbourhoods. Mentors receive soccer-specific training by Toronto FC and earn a coaching certificate at the completion of the program.
KickStart Celebration Day on August 21st brought youth from all participating neighbourhoods together at the Kia Training Ground in Downsview Park.
"Kia's Drive Change initiative is about making a positive and lasting difference in Canadian communities," said Maria Soklis, Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, Kia Canada Inc. "Together with our soccer partners and dealer network and through the power of sport, we will be able to make a difference for underserved youth who may otherwise not have had this experience.
At the Celebration Day, youth received a surprise visit from the entire Toronto FC team, who joined in on the afternoon's activities. Toronto FC striker Jermain Defoe offered advice to the cheering youth and got them roared up and ready to play ball.
Toronto FC striker Jermain Defoe addresses the crowd.
Makenzie, a 13-year old resident from the Canlish community, showed her enthusiasm about the opportunity to play soccer with the Toronto FC team. In the program since it started three years ago, Makenzie is looking forward to the new experiences ahead. "It's really cool getting to meet all the Toronto FC players. I'm excited about playing and meeting new people," she said.
"The MLSE Foundation and Toronto FC are excited to make a difference for the hundreds of kids who will be involved in the KickStart program," said Michael Bartlett, Senior Director, Corporate Responsibility, MLSE Foundation. "We know that there are many benefits to participating in sports at a young age and we want to ensure that all kids have access to quality, sustainable programming in their neighbourhood. Every kid in Toronto deserves the opportunity to dream big on the playing field."
For more information on KickStart, please see the link on our website.