Community Clubs Football

Orléans Bengals will offer free football season upon return

By Dan Plouffe

The family of uOttawa Gee-Gees football coach Marcel Bellefeuille will have a hand in making local youth football more accessible.

On the heels of a contribution by the Zigoumis family, the Orléans Minor Football Association received a donation in memoriam of Aldège Bellefeuille Sr. which will allow the club to eliminate player fees once the sport can safely return to the field.

“My husband, Aldège, and I, loved watching our grandsons play football for the Orléans Bengals and cheering them from the sidelines across Ottawa,” Bonnie Bellefeuille said in a news release.

“This pandemic has been hard on so many kids and this is something I know in my heart that he would want to do this for them.”

Aldège Jr., who spoke to the Ottawa Sports Pages in late 2020, said that Orléans Minor Football has adopted the mantra of “no child left behind” and has long sought to make the sport as inclusive as possible.

In the dozen years he’s been involved with Orléans football, Aldège Jr. noted that the club presidents have been from Indigenous, Pakistani, Caribbean and Greek origins. Some years, Orleans teams have had a majority of Black head coaches, and their current executive is two-thirds female.

“It just comes natural to us. We’ve been doing this for so long,” signalled Aldège Jr., who’s seen the club transform from overwhelmingly “white and English” in its earlier days. “Now, the Bengals are really a microcosm of Canada, and that makes us strong.”

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The Bellefeuilles lived in the Hetherington and Heron Gate Ottawa Community Housing neighbourhoods. Bonnie had her fourth child at age 19 and worked as a waitress, while Aldège Sr. was a furniture mover.

“Football is a game where there’s a lot of less affluent and at-risk kids who play the game,” explained Aldège Jr., a federal public servant for a quarter-century and volunteer coach.

“We know full well about people who paid it forward for us,” he added, recalling that local football builder Sandy Ruckstuhl would buy food after games for players like him who didn’t have money for the canteen. “For me, that instilled that feeling that I’ve got to give back.”

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