Organizations help bring football to Toronto high schools
It’s not always easy to give kids 60 minutes a day of physical exercise.
Or to provide equipment to start a football team that becomes the glue for students not just on the field, but through their classes.
In order to help tackle those obstacles, people in the community and charities chip in.
And one source who often goes unnoticed is Mayor Rob Ford.
In a moment of repose, the mayor sat in his office with the Town Crier and spoke about how the Rob Ford Foundation came to be.
It started upon returning from Carleton University, when his Scarlett Heights coach was retiring and the football team needed a new bench boss.
After five years at Scarlett Heights and three years at Newtonbrook, he left to take the helm of Don Bosco Catholic Secondary School’s squad, where he’s been ever since.
In 2001, the then councillor spent $15,000 on 50 sets of football gear to establish a brand new team for the Don Bosco Eagles. That action, with the help of his father, was the catalyst in the gridiron charity.
“People started calling me, ‘You started a program at Newtonbrook. You started a program at Don Bosco. How do you do this?’ ” he said. “Then other people, businesses, asked, ‘Why did you just spend $15,000 of your own money? We could have donated it.’
“The logistics of it all. If you give me money it will look like I’m asking for donations, and at this time I was a councillor. It just didn’t look right,” he added. “And if you send it to the school, the school board couldn’t guarantee it would get to the football program because it’s going into a great big pot.”
And Ford’s foundation has been a factor in kicking off 10 Toronto school football programs raising about $100,000.
“My goal, and it might be an unrealistic goal, but I’d like to have every school in Toronto to have a football team,” Ford said. “If not one, but two.”
Ford has found an ally in helping to fulfill students’ pigskin dreams with the Toronto Argonauts and their charitable programs.
Already involved in the community via their Huddle Up program for the prevention of bullying for 11 years, the Argos started their Level the Playing Field charity in 2008.
Manager of community relations for the Argos, Jason Colero, noted that in three years the Double Blue have raised nearly $250,000.
But it’s not about the money for the Argos.
“We’ll do the funding, and that’s the kick-off to it, to get them going,” he said. “But we’ll ensure that these teams can exist after the fact.
“That’s the most important part, you can always start a team up but you have to keep them going.”
Argos players, cheerleaders and staff return to the schools, help develop coaches and also immerse themselves within the school’s entire community including business and music classes.
“Football’s not just about the players on the field, it’s about everybody around,” Colero said. “It’s really good to see that people are saying, ‘You know there’s more to sports than just running around on that field’.”
“We’re going into our ninth year,” he said. “Kids that graduate want to come back from university, they want to help.
“We always have coaches and we’re one big happy family,” he added. “It turns kids’ lives around.”
Colero adds it piques students’ interest in athletics.
“There’s never enough to get people engaged in high school sports and that’s what’s part of our program,” he said. “We’ll do a pep rally at the school to engage the rest of the student body with the football team.”