August 26, 2016
A little girl named Ella donated the final $100 to a $20,000 campaign to raise money for an after-school soccer program, and she did it with her feet.
Ella was one of dozens who participated in KickStart, a promotion by Southern New Hampshire University to raise money for the U.S. Soccer Foundation's "Soccer for Success" program. The KickStart program was a crowdfunding model run during the 2016 AT&T MLS All-Star week in San Jose that invited participants to juggle a soccer ball. For each juggle, SNHU contributed $1 to "Soccer for Success," said Steve Thiel, SNHU's director of partnership marketing.
"Soccer for Success" is an after-school program that serves more than 1,300 children in the Bay Area alone. Nationally the program runs at 578 sites in 27 states using soccer as a vehicle to keep kids active and engaged after classes are over as well as providing them with life skills and mentorship. "Soccer for Success" teaches children in underserved communities much more than the fundamentals of soccer. It provides a structured environment that instills self-discipline, builds self-confidence, encourages a healthy and active lifestyle and fosters quality relationships, which are all critical life skills that are going to help them become productive citizens," said Ed Foster-Simeon, President and CEO of the U.S. Soccer Foundation.
The crowd outside San Jose Earthquakes' Avaya Stadium erupted in cheers and confetti flew when the 20,000th juggle was completed. "This has been a long time coming," Carly Samp, an account manager at Gilt Edge Soccer Marketing said, standing side-by-side with a smiling Ella. "We've done six days of activations throughout the San Jose area and hitting our 20,000 juggles is a really big deal."
"That'll allow them to supplement funding to schools, to hire coach mentors for these kids, open programs in new schools," Thiel said.
Several participants found it easy to see the appeal of a program like "Soccer for Success." One of the younger participants said she liked the fundraiser because it helped kids like her have an opportunity to play the game.
Foster-Simeon said the $20,000 donation will help his organization advance the mission of "Soccer for Success," helping kids develop healthy habits and crucial life skills through mentorship and family engagement. The program operates three days a week throughout the school year promising that each child gets a uniform, a ball and 90 minutes of play each day. The program's coaches are also mentors who, beyond the fundamentals of soccer, strive to build students' confidence and teach them lessons about "hard work, teamwork and persistence in achieving personal goals," according to the program's website. Coach-mentors also meet with parents and other family members to talk about ways to embrace a healthy lifestyle.
"We're creating safe places to play and then we're populating them with programming that makes a real, measurable difference to children and communities," Foster-Simeon said.
The fundraiser will be held at six more MLS games in the coming months; at two New York Red Bulls games in August, two LA Galaxy games in September, and two FC Dallas games in October.
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Timothy Woodward grew up in a small town in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. He earned Bachelor of Arts degrees in film and writing in California and an MFA in Fiction from SNHU.