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Young Canadians Unite to Plan for Play On! 2024

60 Canadian Youth Lead the Planning for 2024 Events Coast to Coast

The Canada Summer Jobs (CSJ) program strives to provide quality work and experience for youth by providing funding to not-for-profit organizations with fifty or fewer full-time employees to create work experience for those aged 15-30. When Play On! Canada submitted their application for CSJ funding ahead of the January 12, 2023 deadline, there were few guarantees: funding confirmations would be sent out starting in April of 2023, the earliest job start date was April 24, 2023, the latest job end date is September 2, 2023, and that not all eligible projects would be funded.

With a rich and historic background, since 2003, Play On! Canada has hosted 179 events in 41 different communities across the country. Over that span, there have been over 2 million participants, spectators, volunteers, and officials involved in Play On! events. Twenty years later, the Canada Summer Jobs program gave Play On! Canada a chance to hire 60+ employees for the summer in hopes of executing events for 2024, and making this nation-building event the biggest and best that it has ever been. Scott Hill, the Chairman of Play On! has a vision and goal of having twenty qualifier events across the country with the winners of these events participating and competing in the national championship event in Brampton in September of 2024. "We have held this event at this scale previously," said Hill "and we know that this project is needed now more than ever before."

Many of the newly welcomed and hired employees found out about the opportunity to work for Play On! Canada through the CSJ website, through the Play On! website, through LinkedIn, through the community, through their universities, colleges and high schools, or through prior experience with the organization. Bianca Thomas, an event coordinator for the event in Calgary, AB, was “looking for a project that betters society” and “stumbled across this opportunity through the Canada Summer Jobs website”. On the other hand, Dayna Briggs who is working on the Nanaimo, BC project “worked for Play On! last year as well” and “couldn’t say no this year because she had too much fun last year”. Greg MacKay found out about Play On! hiring employees through a friend and is currently working on the project in Dartmouth, NS. He says “it’s been a really cool experience for me because I have never done anything like this”. CSJ and Play On! Canada have come together to provide youth with great and invaluable work experience while creating friendships and working relationships that will last forever.

Many of the event coordinators, although working in different places and on different projects, have similar tasks. Working on the Mississauga, ON event, Kate Gallant is focusing “on getting a steering committee together, trying to get leaders, and trying to get people to help” while Matthew Kapogines is working on the National Championship event in Brampton, ON, and is also working on forming a steering committee “to try and generate the excitement that people have been missing from Play On! events”. Nathan Poon is finding it “extremely difficult to find government officials on the municipal, provincial, and federal level, to join the steering committee” for the Edmonton, AB event, but his goal remains “enrolling partners and stakeholders for the event” that he is planning. Forming steering committees builds a sustaiinable foundation for each event and brings many different perspectives and opinions to the team that together, will create, plan, and execute a Play On! Canada project that will generate more than $1M in economic impact for every 100 teams that participate. Historically, more than 600 teams have participated at each Play On! community event.

When asked how Play On! Canada could run all of these desired events successfully without all of the funding received from CSJ, Nicolas Gil, an event coordinator for the Ottawa project said “the funding that Play On! has received has been vital, and has played a key role in being able to
plan these projects across the country” and Stephanie Mah is of the same impression. The event coordinator for Surrey, BC says “in order to put on a good event, and create the impact desired, the money for staffing is needed”, and that she “doesn’t think it would be possible without the Canada Summer Jobs program”. Willow Eldon is currently working on the Windsor, ON event and acknowledged that it would be extremely difficult without the funding, but also mentioned “the importance of volunteers and
sponsors” if no funding was received.

Taylor Bradley and Rachel Callaghan are working on the New Brunswick and Sudbury projects, respectively, and were asked whether or not they think that Play On! will be able to actually fund and operate 20+ desired events across the country in 2024. Taylor is hopeful and said “we’ve got a great team here” and that “it has a really good chance”. When Rachel was asked, she replied with “definitely” explaining by saying “it’s very unique… what other country-wide street hockey event/festival as big as Play On! exists, and what other project has a purpose as wonderful as building Canada one game at a time?”

There is plenty of support for Play On!, from past competitors and volunteers, to current employees, not to mention sponsors all around the country. Planning a year in advance for the 2024 events will give Play On! Canada and its new CSJ employees plenty of time to put together the greatest street hockey festival ever, to grow the game of hockey, to be inclusive to everyone, and to bring the community together. Prior to COVID-19, Play On! set the Guinness World record for the largest street hockey tournament, including over 42000 players, and the goal is to break the organization and World record once again in 2024. With a very dedicated team from all backgrounds working on this project, including former competitors in the tournament, and fans of the sport of hockey, anything is possible!

Want to help support this project in your community? Contact us at playoncanada@gmail.com to express your interest in joining a local steering committee.

This article was written by Matthew Potichnyj, a Canada Summer Jobs employee working on the Brampton project.