close

Each season, Major League Soccer and Wells Fargo recognize MLS fans who are making a positive impact in their community. During these challenging times caused by COVID-19, we’ll be joining forces to shine a light on those individuals who are going above and beyond to serve our communities.

Fans throughout the soccer community will have an opportunity to nominate themselves or individuals who have provided critical services including healthcare professionals, social workers, teachers, delivery & truck drivers, grocery store employees, first responders and many other essential workers to keep our communities resilient and safe.

Representing each MLS Club, 26 Community MVPs will be selected. Receiving charitable donations totaling $65,000, each Community MVP will receive national and local recognition, a donation to a 501(c)(3) charity of their choice, a customized adidas MLS jersey, and an MLS adidas 2020 NATIVO XXV Official Match Ball.

2020 COMMUNITY MVPs BUILDING BETTER COMMUNITIES

It's Important To Get Involved In Your Community
Even $5 Can Change A Life
Generosity is the currency we should use every day
Vitelio
Vitelio "Vito" Aguilar
LA Galaxy LA Galaxy

Vitelo “Vito” Aguilar dedicates his time as the Regional Membership Director for the Los Angeles County Medical Association. Aguilar, through his work with AFJA provided programming and resources to youth who typically participated in their soccer programming. With many programs shutting down in response to the pandemic, Aguilar helped lead virtual engagement opportunities. As a single father of beautiful twin boys, Aguilar is passionate to provide access to soccer for children in at risk communities. Aguilar can be seen and heard in section 138 cheering for the LA Galaxy alongside his friends in LA Riot Squad on game day.

Zain Habboo
Zain Habboo
D.C. United D.C. United

Zain Habboo and her Jordanian-American family live in Chevy Chase, Maryland. In 2015, Habboo’s youngest son Rakan was diagnosed with a very rare strain of pediatric cancer and received treatment at Children’s National Hospital. During their time at the hospital, Rakan started a fundraiser raising $25,000 in a week, which outfitted every room on the Oncology floor with built in Nintendo gaming systems. Rakan lost his battle to cancer at just six-years-old. To date, Habboo and her family have raised over $130,000 to find a cure for pediatric cancer. This year, in honor of what would have been Rakan’s tenth birthday, the family created a social media fundraiser was able to raise over $25,000. Habboo and her family have also found innovative ways to support pediatric cancer patients during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ulric Alsobrook
Ulric Alsobrook
Atlanta United FC Atlanta United FC

Ulric Alsobrook has led the Southside youth program, located in Atlanta, in various projects. Alsobrook managed the Slices and Strikes project, which included working with a local community partner to provide hot meals and soccer balls to youth players. Additionally, Alsobrook lead virtual forums for youth, focused on important topics including the Black Lives Matter movement. The forums helped youth players understand what is happening in the world while creating a safe space to ask questions. Most recently, Alsobrook started a homework helpline to provide youth players an extra support system outside virtual school.

Jesse Symons
Jesse Symons
Vancouver Whitecaps FC Vancouver Whitecaps FC

Jesse Symons is an incredible example of a community leader, which was amplified through his personal effort to give back during the COVID-19 pandemic. As programs began to shut down in Vancouver, Symons immediately began to contemplate how he could help. The result, Symons looked at existing virtual soccer programs and found ways to make them more interactive. These programs not only helped individuals improve their soccer skills but build relationships and have social engagement in a safe way. Symons also recruited his student athletes to participate as he saw the opportunity for them to make a difference- benefiting the recipients but also developing the student athletes’ leadership capabilities. The program was launched in May through June during the provincial initial quarantine period and engaged over 27 Indigenous children and youth from 7 remote Indigenous communities. The program continued for 8 weeks with consistent and enthusiastic participation by all involved, most importantly the children and youth. The Vancouver Whitecaps supported the program delivery through player appearances and with Spike (their mascot) joining in on the fun.

Kim Pehlke
Kim Pehlke
Chicago Fire Chicago Fire

Kim Pehlke is currently a special education teacher at Metea Valley High School. Pehlke serves as the Special Olympics Athletic Director, Coach, and Youth Leadership Mentor. Pehlke has been a part of Special Olympics Illinois Unified programming for over 10 years, enhancing programming not just in her region but across the state. Most recently, Pehlke helped develop, implement, and monitor a Youth Leadership Certification that has now impacted more than 1,000 high school students across the state.

Dr. Julie McCleery
Dr. Julie McCleery
Seattle Sounders FC Seattle Sounders FC

Dr. Julie McCleery, with the University of WA Center for Leadership in Athletics, single handedly spearheaded, fundraised for, and managed the King County State of Play Study last year. This effort initiated a regional commitment to reimagine youth sport and address inequities in youth access to physical activity through sports, FREE PLAY, and outdoor recreation. The results of the study fired up a coalition of those of us who work in youth athletics to do something about it. Members of the Seattle Sounders and RAVE Foundation are inspired by their leadership and commitment and the collective action happening now in Seattle and surrounding areas as a direct result of Dr. McCleery and her team’s work has garnered national attention. Also, thanks to Dr. McCleery’s leadership, our region is thoughtfully planning an equitable return to play as youth sports, halted due to the COVID-19 pandemic, get re-introduced in our playfields and community centers throughout the region. Lastly and most importantly, Dr. McCleery led the King County Play Equity Coalition to champion a drastic shift for social transformation in youth sports, directly addressing inequities due to systemic racism.

Mylo Fowler
Mylo Fowler
Real Salt Lake Real Salt Lake

Mylo Fowler grew up on The Navajo Reservation in Arizona. On the Reservation, many families currently do not have a reliable source of light or power in their homes. Fowler has been installing solar light and power on homes for families on the Navajo and Hopi Reservations. The light and power helps them with necessary household tasks, and allows them to work after the sun goes down to stay at comparable levels with their peers in work and schooling. When the pandemic hit, Fowler knew the focus needed to shift and he saw the need to help young Navajo students adjust to distance learning. With the help of several partners, including the RSL Foundation, Fowler arranged to have thousands of distance learning kits put together and delivered to students on the Reservation in Utah, Arizona, and New Mexico. These kits included classroom supplies, stem activities, hand sanitizers, age-appropriate books, and a solar lantern to allow students to work, even after the sun goes down. Fowler is a hard-working individual who serves as both a community leader and role model.

Shanta Barton-STubbs
Shanta Barton-STubbs
Orlando City SC Orlando City SC

In 2004, 21-year-old Shanta Barton-Stubbs saw a need to support youth in a neighborhood where violent crime, drug abuse, and homelessness are commonplace. That first summer, she started with 8 youth, $1500 of her personal savings, and a handful of used board games. Today, New Image Youth Center is a consistent presence in the lives of youth who often lack stability. Through the dedication of her staff and volunteers, they provide year-round services to students of all ages, and have helped many of their center graduates achieve their dreams of going to college. Programming continued despite the COVID-19 pandemic, with Shanta and her staff finding unique and safe ways to engage youth in the community.

William
William "Ewell" Sterner
San Jose Earthquakes San Jose Earthquakes

William (Ewell) Sterner, founded Hunger at Home in 2008 in San Diego and reactivated the nonprofit in 2015 after moving to San Jose. As a 30-year hospitality executive, Sterner was moved to start Hunger at Home when his son Cassidy volunteered and saw the devastating effects of hunger and Sterner knew of the extensive food waste in the hospitality industry. Today, Hunger at Home partners with local convention centers, hotels, and sports stadiums throughout Silicon Valley to collect excess food and goods. This food and goods are then distributed to hungry and homeless individuals through a robust nonprofit network. To date, Hunger at Home has donated 3.5 million meals locally and helped distribute much needed goods like towels, blankets, kitchen items, and hygiene kits. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Sterner led his team to meet the increased need in the community. Using the “People Helping People” mantra, Hunger at Home is committed to supporting our community in their time of need, including hosting food distribution at Earthquakes stadium.

Nancy Craskey
Nancy Craskey
Philadelphia Union Philadelphia Union

Nancy Craskey is the Director of Development at CityTeam Chester. CityTeam provides help and hope to neighbors in need with hot meals, groceries, shelter, housing, and restorative programs, learning and career help, and more. When the COVID-19 pandemic reached Philadelphia, Craskey kept open lines of communication through social media channels to make local residents aware of CityTeam’s emergency food box distribution and new system for dinner pick up. With food insecurity at an all-time high during the COVID-19 pandemic onset, Craskey and her team stepped up when the community needed them most.

Heather Canterbury
Heather Canterbury
FC Dallas FC Dallas

Heather Canterbury, Frisco Fastpacs Executive Director delivers weekend meals to all 72 FISD campuses for 1400+ children, to ensure they do not go hungry when school is not in session. During the COVID-19 pandemic, with school transitioning to the virtual space, kids were not going to campus and the need for meals skyrocketed. Canterbury and her team of volunteers have worked tirelessly over the past seven months to ensure that no Frisco ISD student was left hungry during these challenging times. Canterbury and her team continued to pack meals and set up pick-up sites at various school campuses during the spring and summer months. Families that qualified were able to drive to the various pickup sites to receive their meals. Canterbury has also continued fundraising efforts for Frisco FastPacs to be able to provide these meals to local students in need.

Nathalie Bouchard
Nathalie Bouchard
Montreal Impact Montreal Impact

Nathalie Bouchard is currently the director of the Centre de ressources et d’action communautaire de La Petite-Patrie (CRACPP), an organization based in Montreal that contributes to the fight against poverty and food waste. Thanks to Bouchard’s work, the CRACPP is today considered a benchmark in the neighborhood for its work surrounding food insecurity, and it continues to inspire many beyond the Petite-Patrie community. With the onset of the unprecedented health crisis, Bouchard stepped up despite increase risk and limited resources and lead her team to answer every food request in the community. Through the efforts of Bouchard and her team, the CRACPP was able to hand out over 3,400 free food aid baskets, produce over 6,000 prepared meals and redistribute almost 75 tons of canned goods since March.

Kent Wellington
Kent Wellington
FC Cincinnati FC Cincinnati

Kent Wellington started mentoring vulnerable kids in Cincinnati over 25 years ago and continues to dedicate his life to helping provide opportunities for at risk youth in the Cincinnati area through an organization called Saturday Hoops. Wellington founded the Karen Wellington Foundation for LIVING with Breast Cancer (KWF) in 2007, in memory of his late wife, Karen Wellington. KWF sends women and families living with cancer on special vacations, spa days and other fun-only activities, including group outings to FC Cincinnati matches. In addition to giving back in the community, Kent works full-time as an attorney.

Dr. Alex Jahangir
Dr. Alex Jahangir
Nashville SC Nashville SC

Alex Jahangir, MD, is an associate professor of orthopedic surgery and an orthopedic trauma surgeon at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. On March 14, Dr. Jahangir was appointed to head Nashville’s Metro Coronavirus Task Force from his role as the chairman of the city board of health. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, he has joined city officials at the daily press briefings as the medical expert in guiding the medical perspective. He currently serves as the Director of the Division of Orthopedic Trauma at VUMC and Executive Medical Director of the Vanderbilt Center for Trauma, Burn, and Emergency Surgery. Dr. Jahangir is also cofounder of the Vanderbilt Orthopedic Institute Center for Health Policy.

Celia Ward-Wallace
Celia Ward-Wallace
Los Angeles FC Los Angeles FC

Celia, and her husband Joe, started the South LA Café after decades of living in a food desert, they saw a need for fresh, affordable, and healthy food options for their community. South LA Cafe is a community space to take pride in the history, legacy, and future of the South-Central Community. Celia and Joe’s commitment to bring the same quality food and drinks found in other neighborhoods to the South LA community has made them a central hub in South LA. During the COVID-19 pandemic, South LA café partnered with LAFC and the LAFC Foundation to execute a grocery box program that supported food access in South Los Angeles. This partnership conducted two grocery box donations at South LA Cafe, providing over 300 boxes of fresh produce to families in need.

Koeun Kelly
Koeun Kelly
Colorado Rapids Colorado Rapids

Koeun Kelly is a master seamstress. Starting in April, Kelly made and donated over 1,000 high quality filtered masks to individuals with physical and intellectual disabilities, along with their families and caregivers. When the pandemic hit, Kelly thought of the population with disabilities and wanted to find a way to give back. Kelly’s son has a physical disability that is a result of a car accident eight years ago.

Suzie Gerhardt
Suzie Gerhardt
Columbus Crew SC Columbus Crew SC

Suzie Gerhardt is a school district Food Services Director and has made immeasurable contributions to feed the children in her community during the COVID-19 pandemic. In March of 2020, Gerhardt’s school district was forced to shut down, leaving many students and families worried where meals would come from that had traditionally been covered at school. Without hesitation, Gerhardt assembled a team (within 72 hours) to start distributing meals in her community of Circleville. From March 16 to June 22, Gerhardt purchased supplies, mobilized volunteers, and organized mobile meal deliveries to bring over 105,000 meals to kids in the Circleville, Ohio areas so they knew where their next meal was coming from amidst the pandemic.

Stephanie Frazier-Grimm
Stephanie Frazier-Grimm
New England Revolution New England Revolution

Stephanie Frazier Grimm is the founder of the Confetti Foundation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that provides birthday celebrations to children hospitalized, in hospice facilities and in outpatient oncology clinics. Frazier-Grimm founded the Confetti Foundation in January 2014 and has since celebrated over 10,200 birthdays. While these parties are not a cure, they are a welcomed distraction and a chance for children and their families to forget about their illness for a short time.

Darius Jones
Darius Jones
Portland Timbers Portland Timbers

Darius Yaw Jones is an African American and Indigenous Navy veteran using his life and career experience to improve the lives of Portlanders every day. Prior to pandemic, Jones was working as a butcher at Urban Farmer at The Nines Hotel as well as running his popup, Wishbone Kitchen. With COVID-19 effectively shutting down Portland’s restaurant industry, Jones was brought in by Catholic Charities Portland to source, cook, and distribute food to those in our city who need it most. Through St. Francis Dining Hall, Jones and team served more than ten thousand warm meal and food boxes to veterans, people experiencing homelessness, and the migrant worker communities. Jones’ work ethic, focus on community, and emphasis on eliminating food waste is an inspiration to everyone around him.

Shane O'Rourke
Shane O'Rourke
Minnesota United FC Minnesota United FC

Shane O’Rourke is the founder of LiftUp, a non-profit that gives away 100% of donations. Through LiftUp, donations are sent to certified projects throughout the Minneapolis community, as well as around the world.  O’Rourke and LiftUP were one of the first to respond with cleanup crews and food donations in an effort to help rebuild Minneapolis. As people learned about the work O’Rourke has done, they have joined LiftUp and raised additional funds for the community. This year, LiftUp was able to provide 20 beds for children without a place to go and raised over $25,000 to feed children in the Minneapolis area. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, LiftUp has started multiple relief projects currently being funded both locally and in other cities around the United States.

Jose Benchimol
Jose Benchimol
Inter Miami CF Inter Miami CF

In April of 2020, Jose Benchimol and his wife tragically lost their son, Sholem, in a biking accident. Sholem was a rising soccer star and had dreams of playing professionally. In his memory, Jose and his family started Sholem Corazon Valiente, a non-profit to enhance athletic and emotional intelligence development amongst children. The organization also provides scholarships to children for soccer. The academy they partner with is an Israeli team that does not have programming on Saturdays so players can observe Shabbat. In response to the pandemic, Benchimol organized food donation in Miami and abroad and has started to create virtual programming for youth soccer players.

Lael Hillis
Lael Hillis
Toronto FC Toronto FC

Lael Hillis is a Nurse Practitioner in Markham, Ontario (Greater Toronto Area), who services nursing homes in the Markham area. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Hillis worked long hours taking care of her young family at home and working on the front lines, testing senior patients for COVID-19 and instituting new training and safety procedures in some of the hardest hit nursing homes. Beyond her medical responsibilities, Hillis took the extra time to talk with senior patients who were isolated from their families and loved ones. Hillis went above and beyond, compromising her own health and safety, to help protect some of our most vulnerable members of society.

Taneshu Collier
Taneshu Collier
Houston Dynamo Houston Dynamo

Taneshu Collier has always had a passion for children, which has led her and her husband to give back to at risk youth in their community. After her son passed away in 2010, she was determined to make a difference in the lives of children by providing them a safe haven, thus creating TRELS Home for Children’s Emergency Shelter. Despite the need for safe havens increasing during the pandemic, many agencies had to close their doors or limit capacities, thus leaving many children with no place to go. TRELS Home for Children pressed on, remaining open to help many children despite the pandemic.

Heather Butts
Heather Butts
New York City FC New York City FC

Professor Butts is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Healthcare and Public Administration at LIU Post and the co-founder or H.E.A.L.T.H for Youths, Inc., a nonprofit organization which focuses on college readiness and preparation. Butts’ organization partners with 53 programs each year to help more than 4,000 students achieve their dream of going to college. During COVID-19, her organization has worked on dozens of projects to help the community including: turning little free libraries into food pantries; getting resources to under privileged families; organizing several community gardening programs producing harvests and beautification projects; partnering with other community organizations on “The Clementine Collective” to get fresh produce into neighborhood corner stores; and collaborating with New York City Football Club on multiple projects including: converting live soccer programming into virtual soccer programs; collaborating on a 10 week RoboSoccer build and coding class; working on a multi-week resume writing campaign for youth and helping to run a gaming tournament for youth.

Jackie Baras
Jackie Baras
New York Red Bulls New York Red Bulls

Jackie Baras is a transgender woman and a Quality Nurse Manager of Perioperative Services and Clinical Anesthesia Manager for Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick, New Jersey.  Baras is a respected Nurse Leader and TransRights advocate in RWJ Barnabas Health (RWJBH) and community and is recognized as one of the most dynamic speakers, resource experts and leaders in Nursing and the LGBTQIA community. Baras established the first LGBTQIA hospital based primary care clinic called PROUD Family Health at RWJ Somerset and launched the first education and support group for LGBTQIA teens. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Baras made sure that LGBTQIA youth were not forgotten, working with the local foodbank to provide meals and collect essential items for homeless LGBTQIA youth.

Brooke Wiens
Brooke Wiens
Sporting Kansas City Sporting Kansas City

Brooke Wiens has served the North Kansas City School District for more than 17 years as an educator. This year, her role as a teacher of English Language Learners at Crestview Elementary, the most diverse public school in the state of Missouri, took on increased importance amidst the challenging circumstances surrounding COVID-19 and the transition to virtual learning. Wien’s leadership and dedication was evident from day one as she embodied the school’s motto of “whatever it takes.” With more than 500 students no longer coming to school, Wiens built a bookmobile in the back of her vehicle to not only deliver books to their homes, but also to deliver instruction via socially-distanced tutoring and reading in their driveways.

COMMUNITY MVP TESTIMONIALS

Julio Gutierrez

2016 MLS WORKS Community MVP Finalist

We all shared the similar goal in which we wanted to give hope to others in our community by giving our time and energy to improve it.

Overall, [the Contest] was a wonderful experience and this is a great way to demonstrate how your community work has impacted others’ lives. Having [Major League Soccer] recognize you is an unforgettable experience that I wish all leaders could go through. This Contest is not just to celebrate your accomplishments, but to motivate future leaders and show that their work does not go unrecognized.

This is a great way to show that no leader deserves to go unnoticed and to inspire others to help their community in any way.

Bobby Samra

2013 MLS WORKS Community MVP Grand Prize Winner

We galvanized so many people for a common cause. It was awesome seeing the soccer community come together to try to win for charity. There are many people who work hard to benefit others. [This Contest] is a great way to recognize their unselfish work.

Omari McCleary

2016 MLS WORKS Community MVP Finalist

Community Service and Social Work deserve accolade and praise just as much as feats of athleticism.

I think all sports have the potential to be transformative, but I believe soccer specifically has a capacity for social change and connectedness. A lot of the possibilities that soccer can inspire goes without recognition and celebration, and yet it’s vital to highlight those who are utilizing the sport for social impact. [This Contest] goes beyond acknowledgement, it could possibly inspire someone to get involved.

Stephen Schirra

2016 MLS WORKS Community MVP Grand Prize Winner

The charitable contribution [from the Contest] allowed us to grow our efforts beyond what we ever thought was possible, increasing our impact both domestic and global.

The Contest…provided us all with an incredible opportunity to network with other leaders in the sport for social change sector, hearing their stories, and drawing inspiration from the work they were doing within their own local communities and beyond.

Knowing how important it was to recognize those using sports to make a difference in the world, we have since started a permanent scholarship fund (established June 2017) that will award $1,000 to a graduating high school senior, male or female, who is using sports to make a difference in the local community.

Derek Braun

2015 MLS WORKS Community MVP Finalist

[This Contest] creates a community out of a sports team. [It’s] important in highlighting and honoring leaders in the community.

Mark Popsie Lewis

2016 MLS WORKS Community MVP Finalist

It’s always important to show appreciation to the people that aren’t necessarily looking for any recognition.

Jennifer Karps

2016 MLS WORKS Community MVP Finalist

I think we have an obligation to support our communities. [The Contest] enables individuals to make a greater impact than they could alone.

Karen Wright

2015 MLS WORKS Community MVP Grand Prize Winner

[This Contest] gets the word out about all the “everyday” people behind the scenes that really help make communities strong. We truly were just examples of the masses that also do what we do.

Robert Castaneda

2015 MLS WORKS Community MVP Finalist

I think it’s important for the sport of soccer at its highest level in the country to recognize the valuable work that people are doing on the ground every day trying to make a difference in our world through what unites us, soccer. It’s an important reminder that even though we may cheer for different teams, ultimately, we are all on the same team.

Charlie Bedard

2016 MLS WORKS Community MVP Finalist

…the monetary reward was valuable to our local soccer organization. Even though our fees to play organized soccer are quite low, there are many families who cannot afford even that. So, we established a scholarship fund to make sure that any child who wanted to play could play.

Lisa Stilgenbauer

2017 MLS WORKS Community MVP Finalist

I live in a small community that embraces other sports before soccer. From the newspaper articles and just word of mouth, [the Contest] introduced our area to the wonderful game of soccer.

PAST MVPs

BOBBY SAMRA
2013 WINNER
“There are many people who work hard to benefit others. This contest is a great way to recognize their unselfish work.”

BOBBY SAMRA

VANCOUVER WHITECAPS FC

Bobby Samra was chosen as Vancouver Whitecaps FC’s Community MVP for his work as an educator and soccer coach. He is a vice principal in Surrey, British Columbia and has coached soccer for over 25 years. He first started coaching right out of high school and fell in love with teaching and working with kids. Since then, he has coached soccer at every school he has been at and has even had former students return to help him.

Most recently, Bobby developed a soccer program with Central City Soccer Club and the Surrey School District for kids with mental health issues.

Bobby donated the money he won from the Community MVP contest to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, a cause that is personally very important to him and his family.

BILL YOACHIM
2014 WINNER

BILL YOACHIM

Vancouver Whitecaps FC

Bill Yoachim of Nanaimo, British Colombia was chosen as Vancouver Whitecaps FC’s Community MVP for co-founding “Hope and Health,” a soccer-based organization that encourages and inspires kids to overcome adversity, in partnership with the Vancouver Whitecaps FC.

Bill works with indigenous Canadian children known as First Nations. He saw how many in the community struggled, and he co-created “Hope and Health” to provide support and inspiration for these kids to live healthier, more active lives.

KAREN WRIGHT
2015 WINNER
“It is wonderful that the Community MVP contest gets the word out about the “everyday” people behind the scenes that really help make communities strong. We truly were just examples of the masses that also do what we do.”

KAREN WRIGHT

Portland Timbers

Karen Wright was selected as the Portland Timbers Community MVP for founding the Yamhill Carlton Soccer Club (YCSC) in 2010, and growing the club from 14 local players to over 300 registered club members, and 25 registered coaches.

In 2014, over 4,000 hours were logged by more than 100 committed soccer volunteers of all ages for numerous charitable programs and events.

Karen used the money she won from the Community MVP contest to purchase youth soccer goals for their club matches. Today, the organization runs a wide number of programs, including a Free Toddler Fun Time for children and parents, High School and Academy program for older players, and free training programs for coaches.

STEPHEN SCHIRRA
2016 WINNER
“Unbeknownst to many, being in the charity field is often a thankless profession. We don't do the work that we do for any sort of accolades, we don't do it for recognition or fame, and money...well, we certainly don't do it for the money. Charity work is (and will always be) filled with its own share of ups and downs. And sometimes as a result you have to focus on the little triumphs because they are so often scattered few and far between immense failures and hardships.
But that's truly why programs like the Community MVP contest are so important. Because although we don't need any sort of affirmation or award to remind ourselves that the work we are doing is positively impacting others, sometimes we just need that little push...that little bit of motivation to keep fighting the good fight.”

STEPHEN SCHIRRA

NEW ENGLAND REVOLUTION

At the age of 23, Stephen Schirra set out on a mission to use sport as a vehicle to create positive change and make a difference in the world. Merging his passion for travel and the game of soccer, Stephen decided to bring a ball with him wherever he went. What followed were stunning shots of him freestyling in front of famous landmarks and beautiful locales.

He started a blog called Around the Worlds, Around the World, and an Instagram account filled with gorgeous images from his travels. The name and his vision materialized into Around the Worlds, Around the World – a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to teaching soccer to underprivileged children all over the world.

The money Stephen won from the Community MVP contest has allowed his organization to nearly double their impact. Today, they run successful programs in 23 countries, teaching the game of soccer to over 3,700 kids from 75+ different organizations. The organization continues to use their soccer program as a positive outlet for the kids they work with, who have all been thrust into trying circumstances since birth.

Knowing how important it was to recognize those using sports to make a difference in the world, Stephen’s organization has started a permanent scholarship fund (established June 2017) that will award $1,000 to a graduating high school senior, male or female, who is using sports to make a difference in the local community.

KEITH PALAU
2017 WINNER
“This whole experience will remain a highlight of my involvement as a Portland Timbers fan, a Timbers Army member, and someone who cares about members of our community who need a little extra love and support.”

KEITH PALAU

PORTLAND TIMBERS

A long-time leader in the charitable actions of the Timbers Army’s 107ist organization, Keith was nominated as the Timbers Community MVP after creating Portland Timbers and Portland Thorns FC-themed visitation rooms in the Oregon Department of Human Services offices to provide a welcoming and warm environment for foster children and their families. In just 48 hours, Keith raised over $8,500 for the project and received a major donation from La-Z-Boy Furniture.

Keith also organized a team of 93 volunteers, who dedicated nearly 800 hours of work toward the cleaning, priming, painting and staging of the visitation rooms at the Oregon Department of Human Services offices in Beaverton, Oregon.

Through the Community MVP contest, Keith was able to provide funds to Embrace Oregon, an organization that connects caring community members with vulnerable children and families. Embrace Oregon has been able to increase its bandwidth in community mobilization, volunteer initiatives and foster family recruitment, and the funds have allowed them to impact nearly 2,000 individuals: children in foster care, biological families, foster families, and Department of Human Services staff.

 

ADRIAN CONOBOY
2018 WINNER
“The MLS WORKS Community MVP contest was an unbelievable experience! I was blown away to be nominated…let alone win. With this donation we can continue to grow our charity and support children and young adults affected by cancer through the power of soccer. Thank you to everyone who voted, and to Major League Soccer, Wells Fargo and everyone at New York City FC. Together…We Can Kick It!”

ADRIAN CONOBOY

New York City FC

In 2016, Conoboy was diagnosed with brain cancer. During his time in the hospital, he was touched by the kids around him also battling this journey and decided to use this unfortunate turn of events to do good in his community.

Conoboy founded We Can Kick It, a nonprofit that provides free soccer programs to kids and young adults, ages 6-18, affected by cancer. Their soccer community is based in the New York metropolitan area and their mission is to expand throughout the United States, helping those affected by cancer everywhere.

STEVEN CRUZ
2019 WINNER

STEVEN CRUZ

From a young age, Steven has been traveling to El Salvador where he would spend his summers in his mother’s hometown – a rural community called Los Amates. Despite not having much in common with the children in this community Steven saw that there was a common language they all spoke – it was soccer. Soccer brought him closer to the children in Los Amates, and Steven witnessed the disparities the children endured on a daily basis: limited water, lack of education, and severe poverty.

As Steven grew older and continued visiting his mother’s hometown, he saw the children he once played soccer with were now involved with the local gang. Unfortunately, gang recruitment and violence is very prevalent in communities of Central America.

Unwilling to allow this image to define the people of this community, Steven started Academia de Futbol Juvenil Amatense (AFJA), a LA-based non-profit that recycles any lightly worn soccer equipment and builds sustainable soccer academies in Central America.

Since starting AFJA, a total of three soccer academies have been established. Each student enrolled must abide to three requirements – good academic standing, attendance, and community service. The implementation of requirements has positively impacted the children in these communities. Within the last two years, AFJA has seen a large portion of students are moving on to higher education (where normally, many of the children would not go past fourth grade).