June is here, and everyone is getting geared up for warmer days, longer evenings, and soaking up the sunshine! Naturally, as the weather improves, and people are more inclined to head outside, there is more time (and daylight) to play. So, this month we are thrilled to feature Free Play for Kids as our charity spotlight!
Free Play for Kids is a non-profit organization that aims to breakdown as many barriers as possible to allow access to play. Their main curriculum, the Afterschool Program, serves the city’s most vulnerable youth. Partnering with schools, they pick kids up after school, and bring them to the East Soccer Centre for an hour of multi-Sport programming. This session, which serves students in grades 3 to 12, is built on two key pillars: Physical Literacy and Social and Emotional Learning.
The Free Play team is made up of over 80 staff, most of whom are part-time Coaches and Youth Leaders. The Core Leadership team is made up of six staff members, starting with Executive Director, Tim Adams.
“Adams founded the program 15 years ago, and is known as the fearless leader, who has been driving change to promote the growth of the program.”-Brandon Brock, Operations Manager
Ruke Okome, Program Manager, oversees all Elementary School related activities. Alyc Monahan, Guardian Liaison and Program Coordinator, is phenomenal in creating meaningful relationships with parents and guardians of the program’s youth. Garth Prinsonsky, School and Community Coordinator, connects community organizations to create opportunities with Free Play for Kids, like their evening Start to Play program. Brandon Brock, Operations Manager, oversees Junior High/High School programming, Welcome to Play, the refugee program, and all logistics. Adria Cisorski, Food Program Coordinator, works tirelessly to ensure that all kids have access to fresh and healthy food, daily!
Free Play recently launched two new activities to expand beyond their current afterschool space. First, the organization partnered with Catholic Social Services to launch Welcome to Play, which supports many Afghan Refugees (and others) who have landed in Edmonton since October 2021. Through the program, they have supported kids (and some adults!) with opportunities for play… everyday! This opportunity has also made it so that families have the flexibility to focus on settling in a new country with the comfort of consistent childcare for their kids.
They have also partnered with the Edmonton Federation of Community Leagues to launch an evening Start to Play program, which aims to activate five different community leagues every month! To date, it has provided free activities to over 500 kids in the city, and has introduced kids to hockey, skating, flag football, soccer, basketball, and lacrosse!
Like most charities, Free Play runs on people power and generous funding! They are always looking for amazing people to work with and are always recruiting for new positions. Additionally, they welcome donations. One of the most popular ways to support is through the Team Sponsorship program, which allows individuals, businesses, or friends to get together and support a team for a 6-week season. Check out their website for full details.
Registration is now open for Start to Play, as well as their Junior High and High School Summer programs. In the Fall, Free Play will be growing and expanding offerings to more schools and spaces to bring fun, health, and wellness to more children and youth in Edmonton!
Thank you to Free Play for Kids for bring the gift of play to the youth in our city! Everyone deserves the chance to participate in play, team building, and community, and we are grateful organizations like these, which play a key role in empowering children.