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June 5, 2019

Kids Club A Unique Opportunity For Future Football Fans

Offensive lineman Matthew O’Donnell is trying to keep a tradition going from his childhood.

When the Eskimos allow members of the Kids Club, presented by The Brick, to run around on The Brick Field at Commonwealth Stadium for 15 minutes after every home game, O’Donnell makes himself available at the back of the south end zone to sign autographs or take pictures with the youngsters.

“We’re just trying to give back to the fans,” he said. “When I was growing up, I lived in B.C. and Ontario. I went to various games, whether it was the Lions, the Argos, when the Ottawa expansion team was there, Hamilton. I was in elementary school, high school, and players came out and signed. So I just thought I’d keep paying it forward.

“Parents spend hard-earned money to come to see us,” O’Donnell continued. “The least we could do is come out for five, 10, 15 minutes after a game, sign a couple of autographs, take some photos. It’s not very hard.”

It’s up to each individual Eskimos player whether they participate or not. Sometimes players choose not to come back out on the field because they are exhausted or beat up.

“But sometimes five minutes makes all the difference,” said O’Donnell.

Although the game is over, O’Donnell said the Eskimos players “have to keep your head on a swivel” while several hundred members of Kids Club run helter-skelter around the artificial turf playing field.

“You don’t want to have a little kid side-swipe you at the legs trying to dive for a ball,” he said.

More than 400 children aged 12 and under have already signed up for Kids Club this season. The program has been running since 2011.

While running on the field and/or playing catch with a friend or parent is obviously the biggest perk of Kids Club, each member also receives a bag with a poster, a membership card and lanyard.

“That doesn’t get you a (game) ticket,” said Eskimos Community Relations Coordinator Andrew Jones. “But every home game when they wear their badge, security lets them on the field once (the players and officials are) off the field, and it’s safe to come on.

“We also do different prizes and draws throughout the year. We’ll send them a birthday card. It’s just to grow our membership with our fan base at the youngest level.”

Registration, which includes a fee of $10, can be done online at www.esks.com/eskimos-kids-club, at the Team Store at Commonwealth Stadium, or at Brickley’s Knothole Corner near Gate 2.

It’s not just children who appreciate opportunities like this. Eskimos receiver Natey Adjei recently had a personal tour of the Air Canada Centre in Toronto with his three-year-old daughter, Laila.

“We got on the (basketball) court to shoot around a little bit and meet some of the (Toronto Raptors basketball team),” said Adjei, 29. “That was a special memory. I’ve never done that before.”