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First mini soccer pitch for Indigenous children ready for play

Grand opening Monday marks a special occasion on Penelakut Island
The Penelakut mini pitch will be painted by late spring 2022 to bring it to completion. (Submitted)

The Penelakut Tribe is hosting a special ceremony on Penelakut Island Monday to unveil a new state-of-the-art mini soccer pitch.

The Penelakut Strong mini pitch grand opening ceremony takes place from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. with numerous special guests, including Vancouver Whitecaps ambassador Carl Valentine.

It’s the first in a series of mini pitches to be installed in Indigenous communities.

The Penelakut Tribe is beyond excited about the project that will provide a great future for children on the island to enjoy the game of soccer.

Core partner contributions from the Vancouver Whitecaps Football Club and Kw’umut Lelum Child and Family Services made the mini pitch possible. The Penelakut Tribe’s trust and long-term participation in Hope and Health initiatives led to the offering of a home for the first mini pitch.

The vision of the Hope and Health charity organization is for Indigenous children and youth to carry themselves with pride and confidence, to achieve their highest potential and dream big. The Hope and Health movement utilizes the beautiful game of soccer and mentorship to inspire hope, as well as to improve the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health and life conditions for Indigenous children and youth.

Major League Soccer’s Vancouver Whitecaps FC is pleased to be involved in the project with Hope and Health, Kw’umut Lelum Child and Family Services and the Penelakut Tribe to install the first two soccer pitches in a series of mini pitches across Indigenous communities.

“Two of the biggest priorities at our club are to build stronger communities and grow the game across Canada,” said Axel Schuster, Whitecaps FC sporting director and chief executive officer, in a press release. “For many years, participating in the annual Hope and Health community camps has been a very rewarding experience for our players and staff. With these new mini pitches and our ongoing partnership with Hope and Health, we are very excited to continue supporting the development of Indigenous youth.”

The pitches will provide high quality and inspiring playing environments to engage Indigenous children and youth in the beautiful game. At the same time, they will help develop soccer skills, along with activating a 5V5 Champions League across Nations.

“This year, 2021, marks Hope and Health’s 10-year anniversary delivering our highly popular annual community camps and H3 community based multi-week programming in partnership with Whitecaps FC and multiple Indigenous communities,” said Deana Gill, Hope and Health executive director. “We’re very grateful to the Whitecaps for their commitment and significant financial contribution to this project and are very excited about this new league and mini pitches. This offers the youth such an inspirational space to play within their own territory and the high touch style of 5V5 will surely accelerate their technical development and above all us, levels up the fun factor.”

“This mini pitch is going to bring so much opportunity to our youth’s future in soccer,” said Joan Brown, Penelakut Tribe chief. “The opportunity to develop the skills needed to excel in the development of their game and most importantly the ability to stay active in the sport that they love.”

The Penelakut Tribe mini pitch was supported by the MLS Players Association that made a recent donation to Hope and Health, along with funds raised through Hope and Health’s “Tell the Truth. Be the Change.”

The design inspiration for the mini pitch initiative is Coast Salish artist Maynard Johnny Jr.’s “Be the Change” orange T-shirt, and the Hope and Health second generation logo, also created by Maynard Thii Hayqwtun Johnny Jr.

The Penelakut mini pitch surface will be painted by late spring 2022 to bring it to completion.

The second community of focus is Snuneymuxw First Nation, located on the east coast of Vancouver Island, the Gulf Islands and the Fraser River. That soccer pitch will be ready in the spring of 2022.

Don Bodger

About the Author: Don Bodger

I've been a part of the newspaper industry since 1980 when I began on a part-time basis covering sports for the Ladysmith-Chemainus Chronicle.
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