A new non-profit organization is aiming to help youth in underprivileged situations participate in organized sports.
Tiny Strides’ goal is to raise funds to help youth who might not otherwise be able to afford to play sports. Formed by four best friends from the York University football team, the grassroots organization was only established in February but has already made tiny strides of its own.
Jacob Janke, Rossini Sandjong, Gaetano Minto and Daniel Loggale all play defence for the York University football team, the Lions. Janke, Minto, and Loggale are defensive backs, while Sandjong plays defensive end.
While sitting around playing Monopoly one day, the four of them got to talking about how sports impacted them growing up. They all come from disadvantaged situations and football helped make their lives better. Now, they want to help others experience the same thing.
Janke was born and raised in Edmonton and is a team captain on the football team. He attended this year’s Canadian Football League combine and is graduating this year with a commerce degree specializing in finance.
Loggale was born in Sudan and immigrated to Canada at the age of five. He lived in Edmonton, befriending and living close to Janke. He was a multi-sport athlete in high school, competing in football, basketball, rugby and track and field. He is getting an undergraduate degree in business and society.
Sandjong was born in Cameroon and immigrated to Montreal when he was eight. He is a team captain and was an Ontario University Athletics second-team all-star in 2017. He is also graduating this year with a business and society degree with a focus on global economy and law and governance.
Gaetano Minto is originally from Athabasca, Alta. and is taking his undergraduate degree in business and society.
“Football is honestly the ultimate team game,” Loggale explained. “It brings that camaraderie around.”
He and Janke grew up a block away from each other and played football with 20 or 30 of their friends on a daily basis. Janke says that back in his hometown of Edmonton, there is a sharp divide between kids that got into organized sports such as football and those that did not. Those that played sports are doing well, he says. Those that didn’t aren’t doing as well.
Many parents can’t afford to enrol their children in organized sports, but those who can tend to sacrifice a lot to make it a priority, which helps the young men stay grounded. Janke’s mom, for example, surrendered her time so that he could play football. He wanted to play basketball as well, but his mom couldn’t get the time off to be able to drive him wherever he needed to go.
Tiny Strides’ website outlines the issues surrounding youth in sport, but it also describes their plan to use sports-specified programming to mentor those in need. They want to take the lessons that they’ve learned while playing football and figure out the best possible way to relay that information to youth.
However, running everything themselves makes for long days and even longer nights.
“It’s like working two full jobs,” says Loggale. “Football helps you with dealing with this because you gotta be mentally tough and you gotta understand where you’re trying to get to.”
Janke adds that they work really hard for about five or six days and then take a couple of days away from each other to catch up on some sleep. So far, they’ve raised $1,000 through a promo video and selling tickets for a pub night on campus.
They held their first event in Aurora on April 13, partnering with the York Region Lions. They put 100 kids through 90 minutes of on-field exercises and talked with parents afterward about how Tiny Strides can help youth in sport.
You can find them and learn more on their website at tinystrides.ca and on Instagram @tinystridesnpo.