Check out our Aboriginal Job Board!
Football players find a way to give back to community
A pair of former Canadian university football players have launched a venture to give Aboriginal youth a glimpse of what football—and life—are all about.
Leroy Fontaine and Dathan Thomas are the co-founders of Tribal Dreams, which provides football camps for Aboriginal young people ranging in age from five to 18.
Besides teaching the youngsters about some football basics, there are also numerous breaks during the on-field sessions to discuss things such as teamwork, dedication and perseverance, skills not only useful in football but everyday situations.
Fontaine, 28, and Thomas, 27, have known each other since they played junior football with the Edmonton Huskies. They played four seasons together, from 2003 to 2006, and helped the Huskies capture back-to-back Canadian Junior Football League championships in ’04 and ’05.
Ironically, though they went their separate ways after that, both players ending up playing for university teams that were also called the Huskies. Fontaine suited up for the Saint Mary’s Huskies in Halifax while Thomas toiled for the University of Saskatchewan Huskies.
Fontaine is from northern Alberta’s Chipewyan Prairie Dene First Nation. And Thomas, who lives in Edmonton, is not Aboriginal.
But the pair, who remained friends during their university days, decided to launch Tribal Dreams after discovering they had similar goals.
“I wanted to provide something for (Aboriginal youth),” said Fontaine, who now also lives in Edmonton. “And he said he wanted to do some (football) camps. So we said let’s work together and make this happen.”
The pair decided to try and expand their Tribal Dreams venture after a successful pilot project last year at Nova Scotia’s Indian Brook First Nation. They also had a camp this year in Janvier, near Fontaine’s community.
Now they have some rather lofty goals.
“We want to expand across Canada,” Fontaine said.
Indications are various communities are interested in bringing the project to their youth.
“We are hearing rumours right now that this community might be interested and that that community might be interested,” Fontaine said.
Thomas believes there is tremendous potential for Tribal Dreams.
“I think people like what we’re doing,” he said. “The whole goal is to help these kids. I don’t see why anybody wouldn’t support us. We’re not in it to make money.”
The idea behind the project is to provide free camps for the youth.
“The kids never pay and we will never let them pay,” Fontaine said.
Instead, the Tribal Dreams’ founders are hoping to have the various First Nations, businesses or other sponsors simply cover their expenses while travelling to their communities.
“We don’t have access to funding,” said Fontaine, adding the pair have already paid thousands of dollars out of their own pockets to try and get this project going. “We’re still in the development stage.”
The Indian Brook camp lasted two days. And the Janvier one was four days long. Future camps are expected to be two to three days.
“We can cover everything in those days,” Fontaine said.
Despite the wide age group, Fontaine added the camp participants will all benefit.
“It’s a diverse group,” he said. “But we break them down into appropriate groups.”
Thomas said Tribal Dreams camps are not all about football. Players are taught many other important things.
“Through football you can create life-long friends, gain self-confidence and learn leadership skills,” Thomas said. “We’re trying to teach them that with football you can build life skills but also that football is something that can get you into schools.”
Though they are not in it for the money, both Fontaine and Thomas are also getting plenty out of Tribal Dreams.
“What I get out of it is knowing that I give back to my community and my people,” Fontaine said.
That’s something he’s been doing for a long time. During his junior and university football days he would lend a hand for various athletic events in his hometown.
“I always came back to my community to give back,” he said. “I have so much pride in my people and my community.”
Fontaine is also currently helping out by helping to coach a high school football team in Vermillon, Alta.
As for coaching elsewhere?
“If there’s an opportunity to coach somewhere else I’d do it,” he said. “But to me right now it is time to get Tribal Dreams out to the Aboriginal communities. It can be rather powerful. That’s why we like it.”
Thomas is thrilled to still be involved in football.
“When I finished playing I was looking for a way to give back to football,” he said. “This worked out perfectly.”
And he’s confident Tribal Dreams has a bright future.
“It should be so easy to expand,” he said. “We know a lot of people and they’re all super excited about our initiative.”
- Community Access
- Contact Us
- Our History
- Archives Search
- In Depth
Share this with friends
- The #IdleNoMore Movement
- Relationship between Canada's Justice System and Aboriginal People
- 2013 Guide to Powwow Country Events Calendar
- Play Radio Bingo to win!
- CFWE-FM Alberta Radio Network
- Buffalo Spirit Foundation
- Western Association of Aboriginal Broadcasters (WAAB)
- July Windspeaker - June 24
- July Raven's Eye - June 24
- July Saskatchewan Sage - June 24
- July Alberta Sweetgrass - July 8
- Download 2013 AMMSA media kits for:
* Sage - Raven's Eye - Birchbark
- Online advertising on www.ammsa.com.
Subscribe & Donate
- Order a Windspeaker digital subscription
- Order a Windspeaker print subscription
- Support independent, Indigenous media in Canada by making a donation via paypal