Sports Soccer ball giveaway at downtown Winnipeg park offers youth a chance to play, build community
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On a hot Saturday afternoon, families from Winnipeg's downtown area gathered at Central Park for an event that gave away free soccer balls and other equipment — and gave kids a chance to get active, which the COVID-19 pandemic has often made difficult.
The 100 Soccer Balls event was organized in collaboration between Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization of Manitoba and Central Neighbourhoods Winnipeg, a neighbourhood revitalization group hosted under the umbrella of the Spence Neighbourhood Association.
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"We have 100 soccer balls, cleats and socks to give away. We are hoping to hit that 100 give away — we did last year," said IRCOM's Jackie Dolynchuk.
The event was inspired bylaunched by Aboriginal Youth Opportunities to give basketballs to youth from Winnipeg's North End neighbourhood.
The reason for giving away soccer balls at the downtown park — instead of basketballs — was strategic.
"This is one of the only green spaces available in the neighbourhood, and it's a soccer pitch, so we want everybody to be able to participate and playing soccer," said Olivia Michalczuk from the Spence Neighbourhood Association.
"Everybody deserves sport and play and to be able to participate. We just wanted to make sure that everyone has access to the things that they need, so they can enjoy this beautiful park."
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In addition to equipment giveaways, children at the event also learned a bit more about the sport.
"Our after-school program staff are here today. They're going to be doing skills and drills with the youth, once they have all their soccer balls," said Dolynchuk.
"We're hoping that the ones who haven't played soccer before — or are new to it … get a little bit of experience with it, and how to do things as well."
With the COVID-19 pandemic limiting in-person activity for over a year now, Dolynchuk says it's good for young people to get outside and play.
"Soccer is a game that doesn't require necessarily tons of equipment and space for the kids to play with. It's good for them to have that social interaction, especially with this past year," said Dolynchuk from IRCOM.
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"It's good physically. It's good for them mentally and emotionally. And it also helps build community," she said.
Kids "just pick up and play," said Dolynchuk. "It's a great way to build community."
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