On Aug. 18, the Torontonians will be getting their kicks by helping to fundraise for a local healthcare facility.
Taking place at the Eglinton Flats, the inaugural Festival of Football, an adult-oriented, soccer fundraising event will feature over 70 teams and 700 people. The event will raise money for West Park Healthcare Centre, a local long-term care and rehabilitation facility located on the Humber River.
Founded in 1904, and now one of the province’s largest rehab facilities, West Park was approved for $100 million to redevelop their campus over the next 10 years in 2011.
The redevelopment — which will increase access to West Park’s services — will potentially add 51 beds to their facilities.
West Park’s executive director of campaigns Mike Fenton says he was looking to build the profile of the hospital and connect to the community while finding a way to fundraise long term.
“The nice thing about soccer is it cuts across all boundaries, everybody knows somebody that likes soccer,” Fenton said. “That has allowed us to go out and talk to the community, at a variety of levels, about building a community festival, but also to promote a healthy active living.”
The festival will feature games in a six-on-six, 30-minute format. Men’s, women’s, and mixed teams will compete on halved soccer pitches.
“We’re hoping to get people from all over Toronto attending,” said councillor Frances Nunziata, who has been reaching out to BIAs and small businesses for support. “In particular, I’d like to see the community, local groups, participate.”
As of press time, the top individual fundraisers have collected as much as $4,900, and the top team, the 88’s, raised $8,000.
“Some people are very excited about it,” Nunziata said. “I think there’s going to be a lot of families, even, coming out and just watching. It’ll be a fun community day, not just a festival. It’s an opportunity to come together.”
With the help of their main sponsor, Heineken, a team will be chosen to go on a trip to Europe to see a Champions League soccer game this coming soccer season.
“It’s not for the team that wins the most or scores the most, it’s going to be a random opportunity for teams to win,” Fenton said.
As the first festival of its kind, Fenton found that bringing the soccer community together was difficult.
“The reality is soccer is [popular] and continues to grow, but the community is fragmented along a whole bunch of different lines, from clubs to associations,” he said. “It’s a big job, and we’re making a significant investment to build this over five years.”
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