Birchmount football team gets $40,000 in donations for new equipment

Birchmount Park’s high school football team is headed back to the playing field this fall thanks to generous donors who stepped forward to outfit the team with the new helmets the school couldn’t afford.

Businessmen Howard Sokolowski and David Cynamon, former owners of the Toronto Argonauts, have pledged the $20,000 needed.

“When something like this comes up, it tears your heart out — there’s no chance those guys aren’t going to have helmets,” Cynamon said. “That team can change their lives for the better.”

When the school’s principal, Karen Hume, saw their email offering to donate the $20,000 needed to get the team (which hasn’t been able to play since the 2019 season) back in action, she was overwhelmed.

“I just about fell off my chair,” Hume said. “It’s amazing, and it’s wonderful that people are reaching out and looking to support this initiative so that kids who otherwise might not be able to get involved can be.”

Reaction to the story in the Saturday Star about the team’s plight drew not just one $20,000 donation but two.

Al Sinclair, a real estate agent with ReMax Hallmark in the Beaches, was a “Scarborough kid” who played hockey for a Birchmount rival in his high school days. He reached out to the coach and also pledged $20,000 to the football program.

“I only played football one year and I wasn’t very good at it, but it would just break my heart if I was told I couldn’t play a sport that I wanted to for financial reasons,” Sinclair said. His daughter attended Birchmount, and he’s been playing hockey at the neighbouring arena for decades.

The front of the sports section in Saturday's edition of the Toronto Star.

“This isn’t just another high school for me. These kids need some help, so I stepped up.”

Birchmount will now be able to buy the new helmets — at a minimum of $400 apiece — required by school board safety policies before the program can resume, and replace other dated items, coach Chris Rhora said.

“We’re going to be in a situation where we can actually get everything that we need properly, including proper jerseys and pants for the kids, and get rid of all the really old stuff,” he said. “The kids are literally jumping over the moon. It goes back to the whole school spirit, football being such a big part of Birchmount for so many years, and now it’s back and it’s back in a big, big way.”

Schools receive some funding for student needs including sports, but meeting the needs of the whole student body with limited funds means a sport with costs as high as football has to rely on additional support. And schools such as Birchmount, with many low-income families, aren’t able to raise money the way more affluent schools do through parent councils.

From 2003 to 2010, Sokolowski co-owned the Argos with Cynamon, who played football at York University.

“We obviously love football,” Sokolowski said. But more than that, he said, they believe a sport that takes 12 players on offence and 12 on defence working together to succeed teaches important life lessons.

“Football is a great platform for high school kids to create character, team building, a sense of purpose,” Sokolowski said.

Removing a financial barrier so Birchmount students can hit the field again in September is what he calls “big for little.”

“Twenty thousand dollars is a lot of money. But $20,000 is not a lot of money to invest in the future of 40 kids.”

Kerry GillespieSHARE:


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Birchmount football team gets $40,000 in donations for new equipment

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