When asked what made him want to play soccer, 8-year old Liam Denoon-Bellemore references a familial connection. When he was younger, he and his mother, Kathleen Denoon, would go to the park and play soccer while his delighted little sister would look on from the baby carrier.
“It would make her so happy,” Liam remembers fondly.
This is not the only familial connection Liam has to the sport. The second-oldest of four kids, Liam is the second member of his family to take part in Free Footie. His older sister, Keirra, joined Youngstown Elementary’s, Free Footie team in Grade 4, when it was first introduced to the west Edmonton school, which Liam also currently attends.
“She wanted to join, and she was really happy with it,” says Kathleen.
While Keirra has since moved onto junior high, Liam was eager to pick up where she left off once he was old enough to join. Now going into fourth grade, Liam gives rave reviews when looking back on his first year with Free Footie.
“I like it because it’s fun, and I really like booting the soccer ball, because I can boot it really high. And I really like being goalie because I’m actually really good at it.”
Liam is particularly emphatic on this last point. When asked about his favourite moments from playing soccer, Liam enthusiastically recounts the first save he made as a goalkeeper.
The ability for her kids to participate in Free Footie, as well as the additional financial flexibility it has provided to her family, means a lot to Kathleen and her four kids: Keirra, Liam, and their two younger sisters.
“For me, it means that Liam gets a chance to participate in a sport. Our families so busy. And with four kids, money can be tight sometimes. I can’t always depend on having an extra two or three or four hundred dollars at the end of the month to pay for everybody’s extracurriculars, so if he can go through the school and have this program available, then he’s learning a sport, and he’s getting to play it, and he’s learning how to be part of a team, and doing something that’s outside of the family.”
Kathleen also appreciates the connections with other kids that have been made by Liam through Free Footie. “Not just [with] his classmates, [but with] kids from other grades too, from different classrooms. I think it’s really good for him to be included in something, and it makes me happy that he gets to do that.”
As for next season, Liam is ready to go, and Kathleen can’t wait to support him.
“He gets to play games and he gets him feeling all amped up, and it’s awesome. That’s awesome.”