2013 Community MVP Biographies
Ray Cook — Homewood Flossmor Soccer Club
For almost 30 years, Ray Cook has channeled his passion for the game of soccer through his volunteer efforts for the Homewood Flossmoor Soccer Club (HFSC), a local not-for-profit organization in the southern suburbs of Chicago. He has been involved with HFSC in various volunteer roles since 1986. Like most parents, Ray got involved with HFSC because of his children. And although his children are now adults, Ray continues to play an integral role in the daily operation of the club. Annually, Ray organizes two week-long summer soccer camps that provide area youth with the opportunity to develop and improve their soccer skills. On many occasions he and his wife Cathie provide lodging for the camp trainers to ensure that the kids receive top-notch instruction. Ray has been a member of the HFSC Board of Commissioners for 23 years serving as the Park District Liaison and Field Coordinator. For years he personally maintained over 10 soccer fields in area parks by lining the fields to the proper dimensions, painting goal frames and hanging and removing nets. Now at age 72, Ray continues to oversee the maintenance of the fields by transporting and supervising a crew of young men to do the more labor intensive tasks. On game days Ray can be found making sure corner flags are properly placed, transporting referees to game fields and generally offering words of encouragement as a spectator from the sidelines. Ray, an avid Chicago Fire fan, shares his enthusiasm for his hometown professional soccer club by organizing an annual outing to Toyota Park for members of the Homewood Flossmoor Soccer Club to see the Fire in action. Ray is a humble, tireless volunteer that gives of his time, talent and treasure to make the game of soccer accessible to children that want to play the most popular sport in the world.
Brian Gutierrez — Autism Speaks Los Angeles
Brian A. Gutierrez was diagnosed with Autism Asperger's at the age of ten. Due to his medical condition, Brian was not allowed to play sports. Still he was he was determined to contribute to the sport he loves and to help raise money to support his High School soccer team. Brian worked with his principal at Nogales High School to create a donation letter, and in four years worked with community organizations to help raise money to fund their soccer programs. Since 2004, he has raised over $45,000 as well as awareness for children with disabilities and the need for accessible access to sports programs. In 2013, at age 22, Brian was officially appointed as a California State Council member on Developmental Disabilities by Governor Edmund G. Brown, Jr. Since becoming a State Councilmember, Brian has worked with local school districts in California to create soccer programs that work closely with those with Developmental Disabilities. Brian has helped to raise awareness of the need for strong sports programs in local communities.
Alex Vaassen — Urban Peak
Victor Wiley—Highland Youth Organization
Believe it or not, some parts of America do not celebrate the beauty and elegance of soccer. Nestled just north of Columbus there is such a place, named Marengo. It is a sports landscape dominated by baseball, football, basketball and track. Some would tell you that Victor Wiley is the only hope for soccer in this region. Victor has been bridging the gap in the name of soccer for many years. Currently he manages the soccer program for the Highland Youth Organization which includes a partnership he developed with the YMCA and Highland Local Schools. Victor also coaches multiple teams and serves on various boards while also maintaining the green spaces in his community so that kids can play soccer and lead healthy, active lifestyles. In fact, thanks to Wiley’s persistent efforts Marengo will most likely have its first school sanctioned varsity soccer team join the district in 2014. Victor has worked tirelessly for his community for years, and his passion to serve and promote healthy living through community sports, namely soccer, has allowed the kids in his community to have soccer as an athletic option. For extra fun he will load the van with kids and take them to a Columbus Crew game whenever possible. His passion is serving others and his joy is soccer.
Guy Perez — Richmond Kickers - RVA Access Program
Jacqueline Jenkins — Special Olympics Frisco
Jacqueline Jenkins is an advocate of soccer for young adults in need of stimulating, recreational-based activity. For the last eight years Jenkins has served as soccer coach for The Frisco Flyers, a Special Olympics team representing the Greater Dallas region. Coach Jenkins has a passion for the children and young adults on her team unlike any other. She offers her athletes structure, knowledge of the game and a true team experience. Jacqueline, a proponent of good sportsmanship, helps develop confidence and leadership skills. Her desire to improve the lives of her athletes goes beyond simply coaching the game she loves. In order to provide a well-rounded experience for her team, Coach Jenkins plans annual outings to FC Dallas games and other destinations. Some of her players have even had the once-in-a-lifetime experience of taking the field at FC Dallas Stadium. Known to some of her players as Coach Jackie, Jenkins is always overjoyed by the looks on her athlete’s faces when they have the opportunity to do something as simple as touch the grass that professional soccer players compete on. Her most admirable quality is undoubtedly her passion to deliver soccer to so many and truly make a difference.
Tony Nolte — Dynamo Charities
On match day, Tony Nolte is visible from every corner of BBVA Compass Stadium. From his seat directly behind the home bench, Tony proudly wears his “space city blue” Dynamo Charities polo shirt in a sea of orange. Tony is equally visible during every single Dynamo Charities event, providing guidance, leadership and elbow grease. He’s as committed to the team and Houston as any member of the organization. His passion for soccer is bested only by his commitment to community outreach. Tony is a charter member of the Dynamo Charities board and the current Chairman. Under Tony’s leadership, Dynamo Charities has grown exponentially to positively impact Houston’s community. Nolte created the annual Dynamo Fire Sale, which has raised $100,000 to support the charity’s initiatives. He has also participated in the Tour de Cure bike ride to raise funds and awareness for diabetes research. He was the Board lead for Calen Carr’s Big Play campaign to support Big Brothers/Big Sisters in recruiting mentors and providing school supplies. He also shaved his head, supporting Bald is Beautiful for Curing Children’s Cancer Fund. Although these are some highlights Tony has been present at every Dynamo Charities event since 2009 and has brought an incredible amount of funding and community awareness to Dynamo Charities. In his spare time he is the team manager for his son’s soccer team and a youth soccer referee.
LA Galaxy — Bresee Foundation
Tim Martin initially joined Bresee in 2010 after donating used soccer equipment to the Foundation and falling in love with its programs. Over the last three years, Martin has volunteered his time and provided financial support to Bresee, enabling the foundation to provide comprehensive afterschool programs that offer free recreational and competitive sports to 400 youth, who would not be able to participate otherwise due to financial constraints.In his short time with the foundation, Tim has raised more than $15,000 for soccer-based programming. These funds have allowed local youth to travel as far as Philadelphia to watch and meet MLS players as well as offer a unique traveling experience that many young people in Los Angeles are not afforded. Tim has sponsored youth soccer player’s participation in futsal leagues, Football Clubs and soccer-based enrichment programs. Tim not only provides the much needed financial resources for hundreds of Los Angeles youth to experience soccer, he ensures their participation by making a personal connection with so many of the kids. Whether it is driving them to practice or adopting their families during the holidays, Martin has offered opportunity and access to young men and women in the Los Angeles community through the sport of soccer.
Benoit Labonte — Peace Pandemic Foundation
Benoit Labonte, and the Jebi Knights, in collaboration with the Peace Pandemic Foundation, have launched Operation Quetzal. The goal of Operation Quetzal is to bring 150 to 600 orphans from Guatemala to the Montreal Impact vs CD Heredia CONCACAF Champions league game in Guatemala. The children will be provided with transportation to and from the orphanage, be given a nutritional balanced meal before the game and will receive a gift. In an effort to raise funds for Operation Quetzal, the Jebi Knights are conducting a fundraising event and a scarf sale. As a member of the Jebi Knights (affiliated supporter group of Montreal Impact Jeb Brovsky), individuals need to display goodwill, demonstrate leadership and help improve lives in their entourage.
New England Revolution
David Chang — America SCORES Boston
As Chair of the Board of Directors at America SCORES Boston, David Chang’s vision and leadership allows 1,000 at-risk Boston youth to receive soccer specific programming every year. As America SCORES Boston’s foremost ambassador, David is not only one of the organization’s major donors, he has also introduced countless funders to the organization. David was introduced to America SCORES Boston through the SCORES Cup, a corporate charity soccer tournament that raises funds to support the mission of America SCORES Boston. An avid soccer player himself, David felt a strong connection to the organization’s mission and joined the SCORES Cup planning committee. Through David’s strategic vision and the involvement of his personal network, the SCORES Cup grew from a local event to the premier corporate charity soccer tournament in the country. Hosted at Gillette Stadium, the home pitch of the New England Revolution, the SCORES Cup has evolved into an all day, 32 team tournament and raises over $200,000 to support the mission of America SCORES Boston. David devotes his time and energy on game days and at various events, and is also active in recruiting volunteers to help out. At the Jamboree, a soccer tournament for elementary school students, David organized company-wide volunteer opportunities for his co-workers at Wellington Management. He is an active member of Boston’s soccer community, and plays in various leagues and tournaments around the city. David’s tireless work as a volunteer, fundraiser, and ambassador empowers America SCORES Boston to activate the power of soccer to spark social change for inner-city kids.
New York Red Bulls
Michael Nies — Luis Rojas Foundation
Michael Nies is the vice president of the Luis Rojas Foundation, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization created by Michael and his soccer teammates to honor their former goalkeeper, Luis Rojas, who passed away at age 30 due to heart complications ten years ago. This grassroots charity raises money for after-school soccer & fitness programs for underprivileged children who attend the poorest New York City public schools. Through the charity, equipment is donated and trained coaches are assigned to local schools, most of which have no official physical education or sports based after-school programming. Currently three schools have been awarded funding, enabling over one hundred kids to improve their health and well-being by playing soccer. As well as promoting physical fitness and teaching sportsmanship, the program encourages educational achievement. The foundation requires all of its participants to maintain a high GPA and strong attendance record. In his role as vice president, Michael organizes several annual charity tournaments, featuring hundreds of local, adult and amateur players. These tournaments are the main source of the foundation’s annual budget. He runs monthly board meetings, establishes foundation protocols, canvasses the city for raffle donations and continually generates new ways to promote the charity. Michael's enthusiasm and drive for the charity helps motivate the board members and volunteers of his foundation, ensuring the foundation’s growth and ability to make a difference in the community with soccer.
Nick Chrisanthon — Starfinder
Nick Chrisanthon is the Program Implementation Director for Starfinder, a not-for-profit organization based in the Manayunk section of Philadelphia. Founded in 2002, Starfinder’s soccer, educational and personal development programs inspire young people from underserved communities to achieve success both on and off the soccer field. Starfinder promotes youth leadership, a love of learning, the benefits of teamwork and the rewards of commitment and responsibility to 600-700 children and youth, ages 6-18. Nick is primarily responsible for the establishment, oversight, and enhancement of Starfinder's programmatic interventions such as the nutrition and fitness program he created. On an average day at Starfinder, Nick develops and improves the physical and mental approaches of hundreds of kids through the beautiful game. Nick’s students engage in at least 60 minutes of vigorous soccer-related activity per session at least twice a week. This includes individual skill training, small group team-building exercises and team-based competitive games. Simultaneously, hands-on classroom activities significantly increase his students’ knowledge and understanding of nutrition, healthy food choices, food science, food preparation and the relationship between nutrition and health. Nick’s primary goal is to help kids make the connection between what they put into their bodies and how that makes them feel and function.
Rolando Cruz — Futures Without Violence
Rolando Cruz is a selfless, dedicated member of the community who works tirelessly to promote equality, safety and social justice both personally and professionally. Working for Multnomah County Commissioner Deborah Kafoury in Portland, Oregon, Rolando has been an instrumental part of several public safety initiatives, taking a special interest in domestic and sexual violence issues. In his free time, Rolando coaches boys’ soccer at Milwaukie High School. In that capacity, he has been a champion for the prevention of domestic and sexual violence, taking it upon himself to pilot the Coaching Boys Into Men program, a violence prevention and education program developed by the national non-profit, Futures Without Violence. Rolando’s initiative and dedication to engaging his players in conversations about social justice and healthy, respectful relationships convinced the Portland Public Schools System to pilot this violence prevention program in the 2013-2014 school year and to expand the program within the Portland metro area. This program will encourage not only the soccer community, but the entire Portland athletic community to place a premium on healthy relationships, equality and the prevention of future violence and bullying. As a coach, Rolando works to develop leadership amongst his athletes. He also demands dedication in the classroom, teaching his players the importance of education while providing the opportunity for them to attend college through the Act Six Scholarship initiative. Coach Cruz consistently demonstrates the desire to use soccer and sport as a means of building healthier, safer, and more supportive communities.
Real Salt Lake
Brian Rasmussen — Dry Creek Charity
Brian Rasmussen uses soccer to unite hundreds of refugee children, from various countries and backgrounds in Salt Lake City. Throughout the year, Brian conducts soccer training sessions designed to strengthen the skill level of youth athletes in his community and offer them the opportunity to be involved with something positive. Once his players are equipped with the tools they need, Brian, in conjunction with the Dry Creek Charity and Break Thru Soccer FC, hosts a soccer tournament for local youth each year, giving them a great outlet to showcase their skills. Break-Thru FC is a youth soccer club designed to create opportunities for youth to play soccer in the community in which they live. Using a grass roots base, this program allows an entire community of youth to not only play soccer, but also develop into competitive players. Brian routinely transports Break-Thru FC players to and from practice and/or games. He has been active in his club’s fundraising initiatives to benefit the Dry Creek Charity. Brian uses soccer as a tool to ensure that the young men and women he works with daily are able to integrate into American society and experience a smooth transition into their new lives.
San Jose Earthquakes
Rovel Stephen Sparkes — My Yute Soccer
Seattle Sounders FC
Angeline Bounds — Special Olympics of Washington
Angeline Bounds was an avid Seattle Sounders FC supporter long before the club joined Major League Soccer in 2009. An active member of the Emerald City Supporters (ECS) since its infancy, Angeline currently serves as ECS’ Charity Director, actively seeking out charitable partners for the group and represents ECS on the Supporters of Seattle Sounders FC Alliance Council. Angeline has raised awareness for the importance of acceptance and diversity and helped to foster a partnership with Special Olympics Washington, specifically highlighting their Unified Soccer Program. Not only does Angeline volunteer for a number of Special Olympic events, she also organized a fundraiser, that brought in over $7,900 to benefit the Unified Soccer Program in Washington State. In 2012, Angeline accompanied the Special Olympics Unified Soccer team to Colorado where they competed against the Special Olympics Unified Soccer team from Denver, and earlier this year, she traveled with the team for the Special Olympics Central America Unified Soccer Tournament in Costa Rica. Not only does Angeline work tirelessly for Special Olympics, but she helps coordinate other charitable endeavors for ECS including collecting for Toys for Tots at the End of Season party and Northwest Harvest. Angeline’s passion for soccer is obvious on game days as a member of Emerald City Supporter, but it is most apparent in her efforts to make a positive impact in her community.
Sporting Kansas City
Rob Million — A Chance 4 All
To the casual observer, soccer is a simple game involving two teams, two goals, and a ball. For Rob Million, soccer is much more. Three years ago, Rob founded the Puma Football Club as an opportunity to unite and grow the soccer community in Kansas. One of the main objectives at Puma FC is to create a strong connection with the community, and Rob has been at the forefront, as demonstrated by his development of the “A Chance for All” initiative. “A Chance for All” serves as a platform to give children, who normally wouldn’t get the opportunity, a chance to learn and participate in the game of soccer. In conjunction with Operation Breakthrough, a child care and social services center, Puma FC supplies coaches, training materials, and donated equipment to children interested in playing soccer in some of Kansas City’s most underprivileged areas. Originally an after-school program, “A Chance for All” partnered with the YMCA last year to offer soccer instruction to a larger population of local youth in the Kansas City area. With Million’s leadership, Puma FC started a full training program at Afrikan Centered Education, a college preparatory school in Kansas. The training has developed a love of soccer for students that knew nothing about the sport, and enabled some of the scholars to play for Puma FC and other local club teams. The opportunity to play competitive soccer, has offered an opportunity to move onto higher education and change their lives. A longtime resident of the KC area, Million believes that all young people have talent and it is his mission to offer an opportunity for that talent to show.
Ben Omoregie — Youth Without Shelter
Ben Omoregie, Operations Manager at Youth Without Shelter (YWS) feels that young men and women require a solid support system in order to deal with the trauma of being homeless. YWS is the only emergency residence & referral agency in Etobicoke dedicated to providing shelter and support programs for homeless youth ages 16-24. YWS not only offers a safe, warm bed, but has evolved to offer a full circle of programs (counseling, effective life skills program, employment guidance, placement in affordable housing and support for continued education) to over 1,000 homeless youth each year. Through Ben's leadership, homeless youth have the opportunity to participate in recreational activities, particularly soccer, which provides stress relief, teaches life skills, acts as a team builder and allows them to simply feel part of the community. An avid soccer fan, and with support from Toronto FC, Ben has enabled countless youth to attend a Toronto FC game at BMO Field (many for the very first time) as well as meet a Toronto FC player. Homeless youth face systematic barriers to opportunities for recreation, but Ben constantly emphasizes that every young person has something they are good at, and encourages participation in recreational activities, specifically, soccer, to empower homeless youth and help them learn to trust again. Ben is passionate in his belief that by being empathetic, and providing constant encouragement, you can build a young person’s self-esteem, and with it, resiliency.
Vancouver Whitecaps FC
Bobby Samra — Central City Soccer Club
Bobby Samra, who began coaching soccer immediately after high school because he “just wanted to make a difference”, just completed his 25th year of coaching. In those 25 years, Bobby has offered young people a refuge from the struggles of everyday life and a place where they are valued and respected. So much so that two of his former players have joined him on the sidelines. Bobby has tackled the issue of acceptance head on with soccer. When he coached at the high school, where he is also a vice principal, there was no female soccer program. Bobby allowed young women to try out for the men’s team and developed a strong team culture that ensured his female athletes were treated with respect as soccer players. Most recently, Samra was approached by his community soccer club to create a program for local youth, who do not have the opportunity to play soccer. Bobby did not hesitate to organize and chair a partnership between the Central City Soccer Club and the Surrey School District that has and will offer hundreds of young people the opportunity to learn the sport he loves.