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2012 Community MVP bios
Ivan Vargas — Hammond Mayor’s Cup/Special Olympics
Ivan Vargas has revitalized the growth of youth soccer in the city of Hammond, IN. As a community project, he wanted to provide an affordable opportunity for young athletes to participate in organized soccer. With that goal in mind, Ivan organized and brought back the Hammond Mayor's Cup, a 3 v 3 soccer tournament, held in Northwest Indiana (part of the greater Chicagoland area), which had previously been cut by the parks department due to lack of resources. During his freshman year at Notre Dame, Ivan was able to secure enough funding and resources to bring the summer tournament back to Hammond. Since 2008, Ivan has helped to grow the tournament to 120-plus teams, compared to 35 from its inaugural tournament, and credits Mayor Thomas M. McDermott Jr., along with the many volunteers who have dedicated their time to organize and run the tournament every summer. The Mayor’s Cup has brought a rebirth to soccer in the city of Hammond, quickly becoming a fun filled family bonding event for all ages. The tournament also continues to be a National Qualifier for the 3 v 3 Challenge Tour’s National Championship at ESPN Wide World of Sports complex at Walt Disney World Resort®.
Jesse Torres — L.A. Watts Summer Games
Jesse Torres, a lifetime soccer player who was born and raised in East Los Angeles, is a career banker, soccer coach, founder of the Hermosa Beach Soccer Club, supporter of education and financial literacy for East Los Angeles youth and the current President of the Rotary Club of East Los Angeles. Jesse is known for organizing and hosting fundraising events to benefit East Los Angeles nonprofit organizations and his fundraising efforts have contributed to raising hundreds of thousands of dollars for local organizations. Since 2006, Jesse has chaired the L.A. Watts Summer Games boys and girls high school soccer tournaments. The mission of the L.A. Watts Summer Games is to build bridges of understanding among high school youth through athletic competition and bring together teams from disparate socioeconomic backgrounds to demonstrate that on the pitch, it is heart, dedication to the sport and teamwork that determine success. Jesse is best known for his relentless effort to establish savings accounts on behalf of local youth with the goal of teaching them to becoming asset builders, and is motivated to make a difference because the drop-out rate at local high schools exceeds 50%. In an effort to reach his goal of An Account for Every Child, Torres developed a local savings program that provides a fee-free/no minimum balance savings account where the bank deposits the first five dollars into each new youth savings account. Apart from establishing savings accounts for East Los Angeles youth, Jesse is extremely active in providing financial literacy training. Through his efforts, over 5,000 local residents (youth and adult) have received financial literacy training over the past two years. In 2010, Jesse established a Financial Literacy Youth Ambassador program at one local elementary school and three area high schools. The Financial Literacy Ambassadors receive three months of after-school financial literacy, leadership and public speaking training. After three months the students are required to conduct financial literacy training for the students at their schools. The Financial Literacy Ambassador Program is nationally recognized and supported by members of Congress and California Senate and Assembly members.
Loren Lichti — Lost and Found Transitional Living Program
Loren Lichti is known as “old man,” a term of endearment given to him from the young men who are a part of the Lost and Found Transitional Living Program (TLP). TLP prepares young men ages 16-21 to live on their own following their release from the foster care system or correctional facilities, by providing an opportunity for young men to work and go to school while engaging in pro-social activities. The TLP helps these young men develop the confidence they need to successfully navigate their lives and become productive, self-sufficient members of society. Loren’s unique style and strategic compassion has made a remarkable difference in their lives. Loren is a husband, father, soccer coach, accomplished artist, Jayhawks fan and avid gardener. He is a student, teacher and coach of real life. Loren is a coach who understands that the true value of learning is in the journey. He understands that his players must first master the fundamentals of the game, which opens the doors for his players to begin experimenting with their skills and injecting their own creative style into the game. Coaching soccer is more of a forum for him to share the lessons of life with young people. His knowledge of the competition helps guide young folks into the correct application of their unique skill sets so that they can play their position to best of their ability. Loren has helped many of our youth adjust their ‘game’ from the one that had them on their way to prison, to a life of success defined by being the best that you can be, working hard for what you have and living with respect for yourself and those around you.
JP Ratajczak— I’m Too Young For This! Cancer Foundation
JP raises money for charitable causes, specifically cancer-related organizations. He organized the 5th annual Crawl for Cancer (CFC), raising an estimated $75,000 for six central Ohio charities and collected 4,000 pounds of food for the Mid-Ohio Foodbank. JP earned the Columbus Cancer Clinic’s Philanthropic Spirit Award as a result of his CFC efforts in 2011, where $22,962 was donated to their efforts. Shortly after that, JP contributed his time on a smaller scale by assisting friends competing in an all-day physical contest, the Pararescue Challenge, which raised $1,745 for families of fallen soldiers for the So That Others May Live Foundation. Last summer JP and his wife Beth competed in a local competition called the Race Around Ohio (similar to The Amazing Race). In the end they secured a win that would allow their charity, the Crew Soccer Foundation, to receive all the fundraising from this year.
Richard Nidel — Good Shepherd Church
Rick Nidel is selfless and passionate about helping people in need, especially kids. His experiences as a humanitarian have taken him all over the world and wherever he goes, he supports children through soccer programs that he has developed on his own. In northern Iraq, he built a soccer field in an abandoned field at an American compound where Christians and Muslim children play together, something unheard of in times of war. In Nigeria, he supported a youth program created by the National coach, in which he trained the kids about healthy eating and hygiene. In the U.S., Rick volunteers with United for DC and has organized donations of soccer equipment to Texas and Georgia. Rick will be visiting Haiti and is working with the community in Gonaives, Jacmel and Port-au-Prince to promote and encourage living healthy lifestyles among local youth. Rick has worked in Uvalda, Georgia, on volunteer missions to distribute soccer equipment and work with the local community to support the soccer program organized by the pastor of Good Shepherd Catholic Church, Fr. Lorenzo Garcia. He also assisted in the renovation of a satellite church in the region. He has worked with the mayor of the town of Uvalda to find space to build a field for the children to play, closer to home. The Good Shepherd Church represents the ideals of diversity, faith and sportsmanship. The soccer program is staffed entirely by volunteer coaches and moms who bring cold drinks and prepare lunch for the kids. It is truly amazing to see the whole community come together for soccer games. The dusty field on which they play now can be upgraded to make it a true jumping-off point for kids from the entire region, to pursue the beautiful game through high school and beyond.
Colleen Kugler — Hope Park Frisco
Colleen Kugler is a teacher who has dedicated her life career path to special education both abroad and in our community. She has obtained B.S. and M.S. degrees in Special Education, and began helping children while serving in the U.S. Peace Corps in Tunisia, North Africa. A Special Education Teacher/Trainer from 1994-96, Colleen worked in southern Tunisia at a center for children with special needs, focused in a classroom of five children with severe autism. She taught English lessons, started an aerobics class for girls and worked a summer camp for boys. Upon returning to the U.S., Colleen continued to teach in New York City, Houston and Plano, TX and has won many outstanding teaching awards along the way. In 2004, Colleen started working in the Frisco Independent School District (FISD) as a life skills teacher. Since 2008, she has worked as an in-home/parent trainer and has assisted families with children on the autism spectrum. Monthly, she conducts training sessions for the families and educators of children with special needs, covering topics such as social skills, self-help skills, behavior, nutrition, language development and family health. Annually, she facilitates a panel of students on the autism spectrum who answer questions about their challenges and their joys in life. Colleen conducted the first Diverse Abilities Day in our community to spread awareness of different life challenges and prepared a traveling trunk with all of the supplies needed in order to present the opportunity to other schools in the district. Approximately 10 schools per year participate in the program. Working with the FISD Special and Gifted Education group, she plans to expand the program to additional schools within the district. Colleen has also begun a Sibshop program for the siblings of children with special needs in FISD. Frisco is currently the only school district that runs a Sibshop program; the only Sibshop offered in the NE Dallas area. Currently, Colleen sits on a Board as the Diversity Coordinator for a local non-profit, Hope Park Frisco, where their idea to build an all-inclusive park has spurred a grass-roots effort within the community. The city has recently partnered with Hope Park to make this dream a reality in March 2013.
Rob Denton — Dynamo Charities
As a faithful fan of the Houston Dynamo, Rob Denton has become an active supporter of Dynamo Charities and exemplifies their mission of utilizing the power of the Dynamo, and the sport of soccer to support the community. Since 2010, Rob has participated in many fundraisers with Dynamo Charities, including soccer tournaments, auctions, player initiatives and other community service projects throughout the year. Rob has served as project lead for the annual Dynamo Charities Fire Sale, which has raised more than $65,000 since its inception. He has also raised over $4,200 in the last two years for the Bald is Beautiful Campaign benefiting the Curing Children's Cancer Fund. In addition to his community service work through Dynamo Charities, Rob is a Team Captain at CNP for Junior Achievement and has worked fundraisers for Pints for Pups and Special Friends. He is an active Blood Donor for the Gulf Coast Regional Blood Bank and hosts fundraisers for the March of Dimes. Over the last 3 years, Rob has averaged 100 hours of community service per year through Dynamo Charities and Centerpoint Energy. In 2011, Rob was chosen for the Jefferson Award for Public Service.
Ricardo Renteria — Boyle Heights Family Source Center
Ricardo has worked for the Boyle Heights community for 10 years providing social services and becoming a positive role model for the local youth. Growing up in Boyle Heights, he knows the struggles that these children face every day. He is the oldest of three and he always felt pressured to set a good example for his younger siblings. Many of his family members and friends never graduated high school and being the first high school graduate was a huge accomplishment. However, a high school diploma was not enough for him. He worked hard as a full-time student and employee, eventually earning a bachelor’s degree from California State University, Long Beach. His personal experiences make it easy for the youth to connect with him. Ricardo has mentored many youth through the Gang Reduction Youth Development program and now through the Family Source Center program. His primary focus for the youth is to keep them away from the streets and to make education their primary focus. He refers local youth to job training programs, community service duties and primarily enrolls them back into school and into college courses. He knows how important it is to be encouraging and how that support can transform a young person’s life. His work and dedication to the community has resulted in much success, encouraging these children to be positive role models for future generations.
Claudine Couture-Trudel — PROCURE
Claudine Couture-Trudel is the Director of Development, Education and Awareness for PROCURE, Quebec’s prostate cancer charity. She has proven herself to be an incredibly committed, determined and persuasive individual who, in her efforts to sensitize Quebec men to prostate cancer and need for early screening, has relentlessly pursued sports teams. It is her belief that sports is the best vehicle to reach men who love to talk about sports, but not about their health. Her creativity and tenacity have been exemplary in significantly advancing the prostate cancer cause in Quebec. Three years ago, few Quebecers understood prostate cancer or even knew of PROCURE’s existence. Today, the organization is well known across the province and awareness of the need for screening among men has increased more than 80%.
New York Red Bulls
Gregory Pinel — Wishi Project
Gregory Pinel is the founder and president of the World Soccer Project, which raises funds for and operates soccer programs in severely underfunded schools. Gregory runs free soccer leagues in New York State for schools that cannot afford any after-school programming. The leagues have resulted in many positive results: students remaining in school, improving their grades and graduating; students have the opportunity to get fit, have fun, make new friends, and improve their social skills; and schools in low-income neighborhoods are now able to offer similar opportunities as other neighborhoods would. Gregory works with several local and international companies and charities to help provide opportunities for children in need to play soccer. He works closely with the Wishi Project, whose overarching objective is to improve marginalized communities’ capabilities to educate their children. Sports – particularly soccer – are considered a critical component of the Wishi Project’s goal. The two organizations work closely to identify local communities who are the most in need. Currently in New York City and Albany, the Wishi Project is hoping to expand soon throughout the United States. They also work together in Ecuador, where they have built and staffed a school in a remote rainforest community, offering children their first-ever opportunity to obtain a formal education.
New England Revolution
David S. Cohen — Doc Wayne Athletic League
David S. Cohen, Executive Director of the Doc Wayne Athletic League Inc., is a former college soccer player, with innovative thinking and a desire to serve disadvantaged children. Doc Wayne provides a positive sport experience and life skills curriculum to underserved children, including those who have been traumatized, sexually exploited, truant, gang involved, mentally ill and are differently abled. On a daily basis, David can be seen connecting with youth, teaching sport and life skills and mentoring young coaches. Since joining Doc Wayne, over 200 youth in New England have become involved and over 40 coaches have been trained in youth development techniques and curriculum. David encourages both youth and adults to find their positive path in life through sport. The Doc Wayne Program provides an environment for fragile children to be part of a team, be immediately supported in moments of stress with on-hand (and on court) clinical staff, survive in a large group setting and develop athletic skills David’s desire to enable the community to assist children globally has also been realized through his work as Founder of Playing it Forward, Inc., a non-profit that provides sports equipment to disadvantaged children around the world. Playing it Forward reaches 25,000 children in 9 states and 19 countries.
Andrew Pocklington — The Animal Care and Control Team of Philadelphia (ACCT)
Andrew is a strong advocate for animals living in shelters, actively trying to secure the necessary care needed, while helping to promote adoption. He volunteers for The Animal Care and Control Team of Philadelphia (ACCT), which is the region’s largest animal care and control service provider, handling more than 32,000 of the city’s animals annually. From dogs and cats to small animals, reptiles, birds and wildlife, thousands of animals are left each year to the streets of Philadelphia because they are unwanted or not cared for properly. The neglected, abused and abandoned animals depend on individuals to feed and house them. Local non-profit organizations have been known to rescue some of the animals, but due to a lack of funding, they are no longer able to, forcing them to be unnecessarily euthanized. Every year the numbers rise and Andrew is working hard to reduce and prevent it altogether. One of his favorite sayings is “You can't change the world by helping one animal, but you can change the world for that one animal.” Andrew has also been working hard with his "little" brother from Big Brother Big Sisters of Montgomery County. His little brother has made great strides in his social skills, has improved in school, and even volunteers in his own school programs thanks to Andrew's leadership and positive example. In addition, Andrew is preparing to do a 100-mile bike ride in September 2012 to raise money for ACCT and the Huntington's Disease Society of America - Mid Atlantic Region Chapter in honor of his late grandfather Bill Pocklington.
Fernando Machicado — 107 Independent Supporters Trust (107IST)/Operation Pitch Invasion (OPI)
Fernando Machicado is a founding board member of the 107 Independent Supporters Trust (107IST), a member-based non-profit organization open to those who love soccer, the Timbers and the city of Portland. The 107IST was created to formally coordinate activities and events that the Timbers Army was already conducting; working with Timbers management in resolving issues, enhancing the game day experience (home and away) and helping fund and expand various charities and events in the Portland soccer community. Fernando was instrumental in the creation of Operation Pitch Invasion (OPI) and serves as the president of its board. OPI is a grass-roots charity formed out of the 107IST to support the building, restoration and maintenance of soccer fields in and around Portland schools and parks. Last year, there were three successful projects. This year, four projects are scheduled with more planned. His current project is working with the 4 to 15 year olds at the Tamarak Apartments providing basic equipment (including boots), coaching, and running scrimmages. This public housing community is in one of the most socioeconomically challenged and ethnically diverse areas in Portland with a history of losing kids to gangs. This is the first soccer oriented program of its type in the area. With the support of other local organizations, this program will soon grow to encompass the youth of other adjacent housing communities. Fernando is also the primary liaison through the 107IST supporting boys and girls high school soccer programs in the Portland Public Schools by purchasing uniforms and equipment. Starting in 2010 with one school, this program now includes four high schools and there are plans to increase to six. He was the driving force in the sponsorship of several area youth invited to attend national team training camps. He led an effort to send soccer balls to local teams in Haiti. He was influential in 107IST’s connection with AC Portland. He also volunteers with many of the other efforts of the 107IST including Friends of Trees plantings and Oregon Food Bank events.
Real Salt Lake
Trent Ewing — Giving a Dime/ Now I Can Foundation
Trent met Jose Padilla in an entrepreneurship class at Utah Valley University. Jose has always been a hard worker and has dedicated himself to providing a good life for his family. Jose was working full-time for an insurance company while going to school at Utah Valley University, in pursuit of a Bachelor’s degree, when he was suddenly diagnosed with Acute Promyelocytic Leukemia. Trent and his classmates wanted to help and together the brainstorming began. Trent’s professor was generous and willing to let the group turn the opportunity into a final class project, so Trent and his classmates created Giving-A-Dime: A Charity Fundraiser for Jose. The charitable endeavor is designed to assist the needs of Jose and his family and includes an online donation drive and a 5K Charity Run/Walk that was held in Canyon View Park in April. To help spread the word, the class contacted a videographer who donated his time to create a short documentary about Padilla’s ordeal. The video, which features interviews with the Padilla family and members of the class, portrays the initial shock of the diagnosis as well as the inspiring creation of Giving-A-Dime. The Giving-A-Dime group continues to look for ways they can help students in the community and is working to make this an effort that supports students everywhere. Giving-A-Dime is not yet a registered nonprofit, so Trent appreciates the mentoring of another Provo-based charity, Now I Can Foundation, which shares his vision of bringing hope to young people in need.
San Jose Earthquakes
Michelle Soares — Mission Valley Soccer League
Michelle Soares, a youth soccer mom, has built a community for children and parents to thrive. Since 2002, she has become an advocate for recreational youth sports, including competitive soccer, and has served in numerous leadership roles with the PTA, Girl Scouts and other youth sports organizations. As a Board Member of the Mission Valley United Soccer League in Fremont, CA, Michelle has taken a leadership role in organizing MVU School Outreach by visiting schools and running soccer sessions, organizing the process to recruit new players and local business support, and ensures the continued tradition of Spring skills tags (recognition for participation) for all members. Michelle has recently committed to a two-year adoption of a black Labrador Retriever, which she will train and then return to the non-profit organization Guide Dogs for the Blind, providing a life-long companion for a person in need. In addition to her success as a friend and mentor to the community, her son Zackary was diagnosed with, and is receiving treatment for, chronic dermatomyositis (a muscle disease characterized by inflammation and a skin rash). During numerous trips from San Jose to Chicago for medical care, Michelle has also spearheaded the collection of aluminum can tabs in support of the Ronald McDonald House. Through Michelle’s encouragement, Zackary is now able to find success through competitive soccer.
Seattle Sounders FC
Monica Trujillo — One League for Everyone
Monica is an amazing volunteer at One League for Everyone (OLE), an organization in Redmond, WA, that supports low income youth soccer players. Through private donations, OLE provides reduced registration fees, uniforms, trophies and defrays all team expenses for low income children, based on the federal guidelines for free and reduced lunch. The goal is to fully integrate at-risk kids into the local soccer program. OLE will be supporting 300 children in the fall 2012 soccer program. Monica is a member of the OLE committee, an OLE parent and an OLE coach. She is bilingual but also has great empathy and compassion for families new to our area, new to English and new to Washington State Youth Soccer. Many OLE families do not have access to the internet, which is the database of the local soccer association. Monica organizes soccer sign-up nights at schools with high numbers of low-income kids, which parents attend, and she is able to clearly outline league expectations as well as troubleshoot barriers such as parent work schedules and lack of transportation. Monica continues to be a resource to these hardworking families. Once their children are placed on teams, Monica educates families as to field location, proper training gear and the importance of water and game day nutrition. Monica has developed a trusting relationship with many of the OLE families, which has allowed them to be comfortable becoming part of a team. Monica has also mentored OLE parents, as they have stepped up to coach - truly changing the face of Saturdays at the local soccer park. Parents are proudly wearing the colors of their teams - Mexico, Brazil, Chivas and Argentina - as they mentor a new generation of American soccer players. Monica’s passion for soccer, her commitment to seek out opportunities for kids and her huge heart has made a big impact in her community. Children who wouldn't have otherwise participated in youth soccer are developing confidence as leaders on their teams, thanks to the patient communication and education that Monica is providing in the community.
Sporting Kansas City
David Belpedio — Gillis/Cornerstones of Care
David Belpedio is an amazing volunteer who is completely selfless, giving and driven. He has been involved with Gillis, an organization that has been serving children and families in Kansas City since 1970. The mission of Gillis is to help at-risk children and families reach their full potential through education, counseling and social services. David has been a significant driver in meeting the mission since he first became a Gillis volunteer. He has been on the Gillis Board of Directors since 2006 and has been Chairman since fall 2011. Under David’s leadership, the agency has made a lot of progress. Gillis acquired a small agency in Kansas, has added three new program lines and increased fundraising revenue 25% from 2010 to 2011. Not only is David doing all of these great things, but he encourages his own children to also give back to their community. His son led a fundraising effort when he was only 15 years old, soliciting donations to renovate the residential cottages on the Gillis campus. David’s son helped to raise more than $95,000 for Gillis. David truly has been a relentless contributor to Gillis’s success and is truly improving the lives of others in Kansas City.
Lindsay Leo — MLSE Team Up Foundation
Lindsay Leo volunteers hundreds of hours each year to a wide variety of worthy charitable groups, serving as an excellent role model for her family and friends. She assists fundraising efforts and events for local charities including Big Brothers Big Sisters of Toronto, Second Harvest, Habitat for Humanity Toronto and the Salvation Army. In addition, Lindsay supports environmental initiatives by participating alongside the World Wildlife Fund-Canada during events such as Earth Hour, the Green Living Show, CN Tower Climb and she collects many bags of garbage along the beaches of Lake Ontario during the Great Shoreline Cleanup. As well as a dedicated supporter of MLSE Team Up Foundation. Lindsay’s dedicated lifestyle truly showcases what it means to be a leading community activist. She truly believes in the importance of helping others, giving back to society, respect for everyone and striving for excellence.
Vancouver Whitecaps FC
Alan Bates — Vancouver Street Soccer League
For the last four years, Dr. Alan Bates has been leading Vancouver’s Street Soccer community. Street Soccer is soccer for people affected by homelessness. As a resident physician in Vancouver’s inner-city hospital, Dr. Bates sees many people affected by mental illness, addictions and homelessness in the emergency room. When he heard about Street Soccer, he recognized it as an opportunity to help a similar group of people, but through sport. Shortly after joining Vancouver’s first Street Soccer team as a volunteer, Dr. Bates partnered with a small number of grass-roots volunteers and the Portland Hotel Society (one of Vancouver’s largest social housing providers) to form Portland FC. With Dr. Bates as the volunteer Head Coach, Portland FC has gone on to play with or against the Vancouver Police, the Mayor of Vancouver and some of the Vancouver Whitecaps. In 2010, they represented Canada at the Homeless World Cup in Rio de Janeiro where they won the prestigious Fair Play award and were featured on national and international media including CBC, CTV, and CNN. In addition to providing amazing experiences for the players, the team has generated a lot of public interest in the issue of homelessness as people are able to identify with soccer players and the inherent humanity of the highs and lows of the beautiful game. Dr. Bates also played a significant role in creating Canada’s first ever women’s Street Soccer team which represented Canada at the Homeless World Cup in Paris in 2011. As the President of the Vancouver Street Soccer League, Dr. Bates has grown the League to nine teams including teams for women, new immigrants, street youth, and First Nations players. Dr. Bates’ research about Street Soccer has demonstrated that players find better housing, gain employment, reduce drug use, make friends, build confidence, improve their skills and physical fitness, gain medical support and decrease contact with police. For the last four years, players have known that every Sunday morning, rain or shine, all year-round, Dr. Bates will be there to lead practice and provide a safe and fun environment to play soccer with friends and supports.