On Aug. 18, the inaugural Festival of Football will be held at Toronto’s Eglinton Flats. The purpose of the event, other than to celebrate the game of football, is to raise funds for a major facility expansion at the West Park Healthcare Centre, a teaching facility affiliated with the University of Toronto that focuses on continuing care and long-term care and specialized rehabilitation.
The sporting event will feature competition between teams that will be composed of eight to 14 players. Teams will play five six-on-six 30-minute games on the same day. It will also consist of interactive activities, entertainment and appearances by football celebrities and VIPs.
Heinekin is the Official Beer of Festival of Football and Inaria is the Official Apparel Supplier and will establish the jerseys for all of the participating teams. Other supporters are the Toronto Soccer Association and Canadian Soccer Association.
Ford as well as former Canadian national team players Craig Forrest, Jason deVos and Kara Lang, inspirational speaker Cyndi Desjardins, Ontario Member of Provincial Parliament Laura Albanese and Deputy Toronto Police Chief Peter Sloly are official Festival of Football Ambassadors.
Desjardins is a mother of two that was diagnosed with a rare flesh-eating disease, in which she lost her hands and feet. “After I went to West Park, I’m now a hands-on mom again,” said the ambassador in a video played at Monday’s event.
Speaking at a news conference at city hall to kick off the event, the mayor issued a challenge to all of his 44 colleagues to not only participate in the sporting event, but also raise money for West Park. Councillors Frances Nunziata and Michelle Berardinetti have already entered their teams from their wards into the competition.
“I am calling upon my council colleagues and residents of Toronto to get involved,” stated the mayor. “I know two of my colleagues, Councillor Nunziata and Councillor Berardinetti, are on board ... not only will you be supporting West Park Healthcare Centre, but you will be participating in a great event that promotes healthy living.”
Nunziata said that West Park has done wonderful work in her ward for the residents and the community in general for more than a century. According to Nunziata, the healthcare facility’s work has increased the quality of life across the city.
“West Park means a lot to our community so I am delighted Mayor Ford has issued this call to my colleages on council and all Torontonians to register teams and fundraise,” stated the Ward 11 York South-Weston Councillor.
The organizers of this event are hoping to generate approximately $500,000 in donations.
Ford noted that he played soccer when he was younger, but then he transitioned into baseball and football. He then made the decision to concentrate his efforts on football, a sport that he coaches at the Don Bosco Catholic Secondary School and has donated $20,000 to the team and has also started a charity to fund other teams at struggling schools.