The MLS WORKS Humanitarian of the Year Award, presented by Advocare honors an MLS player who showed outstanding dedication to charitable efforts and serving the community during the 2016 season.
|FINALIST: Gyasi Zardes, LA Galaxy|
|Gyasi Zardes has been a consistent community contributor to his hometown of Los Angeles since he was drafted by the LA Galaxy in 2013. Born and raised in Hawthorne, Calif., Zardes built the first futsal courts in Hawthorne’s Memorial Park. The Galaxy homegrown player also started a scholarship fund for underprivileged youth in LA partnering with the LA Galaxy Foundation, Herbalife and the Shaheen Scholarship for college bound youth from A Place Called Home in South Central.|
|FINALIST: Matt Lampson, Chicago Fire|
|Inspired by his battle with Stage IV Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, Matt Lampson created The LampStrong Foundation in 2014, a non-profit organization dedicated to providing difference-making financial, emotional and motivational support to cancer patients and their families. The foundation has raised more than $30,000 to date, and Lampson has worked tirelessly to positively influence the lives of those battling cancer and encourage survivors to make the most of their second chance at life. Now nine-years cancer free and in his first season with the Fire, Lampson expanded his Hero Program to his new city, hosting survivors and patients at Fire home and away games, helping the kids and families find a break from the emotional grind of dealing with cancer treatments and its effects.|
|FINALIST: Luis Robles, New York Red Bulls|
|Spokesman for RBNY Tackle Kids Cancer Campaign. Luis has donated $100 per save, and contributed his own items to auction. 100% of all money raised through the campaign goes directly to childhood cancer research.
Robles makes monthly visits to children’s hospitals on his own. He is a proud supporter of Autism Awareness and Special Olympics. Robles regularly volunteers at clinics and training programs for underprivileged children. He also maintains ties to his hometown in Arizona with a series of clinics. Robles is involved in the national initiative known as Athletes in Action, which uses sports as a platform to answer questions about faith and religion.
|Ethan Finlay, Columbus Crew SC|
|Ethan Finlay served as a board member for the Columbus Crew SC Foundation helping with several initiatives in Columbus in 2016. Through his work on the board, he helped launch a new futsal court with Soccer for Success programming and assisted in providing gear, equipment and instruction to a local high school to field its first team in 10 years.|
|Dillon Powers, Colorado Rapids|
|A regular presence at community and charity events throughout the Denver area. An active member of our Special Olympics Unified Program for the past two seasons. Honorary judge at the 2016 Imagine Colorado Statewide Innovation Challenge. Currently sits on the board of America Scores Denver, a recreationally-linked education program dedicated to translating the values of leadership, teamwork and communication to nearly 300 at-risk young girls and boys in west Denver. Active supporter of the American Heart Association Denver-chapter.|
|Zach Loyd, FC Dallas|
|Zach Loyd and his wife Casey devote countless hours and financial resources every week to Love is Ministry and Vickery United, which uses soccer to help refugee children adapt to their new homes, learn English and improve academics. Danny Domingo founded the organization after noticing the large variety of ethnic groups all enjoyed kicking around a ball, but could not communicate with each other. The kids also often struggled to catch up in the classroom. Zach and Casey got involved and helped the group form competitive teams. They purchased a mini-van and use it to pick the kids up for practice each week. They run practices and coach games and provide tutors for the kids to help maintain their grades.
|Sean Franklin, D.C. United|
|Sean Franklin exemplifies the meaning of a humanitarian as he has dedicated his time and voice to encourage community development in the DC Metropolitan region. Sean led efforts through the team’s Get Fit program volunteering his time to visit numerous schools to talk to underserved youth about the importance of staying fit and active. In October, Franklin hosted a soccer clinic for over 100 youth with physical and developmental disabilities through his work with local non-profit Dreams for Kids DC, where he serves as an ambassador. Sean has also purchased in-stadium birthday messages for fans during United home matches.|
|Andrew Wenger, Houston Dynamo|
|Andrew Wenger is not only an outstanding player on the field for the Houston Dynamo, but also a great contributor to the Houston Community.
Andrew was most active with the Ronald McDonald House of Houston. He volunteered on his own time, making sure he was able to attend at least twice a month. As part of the Dynamo’s Kick4Kids Program, Andrew purchased four season tickets that were given to Ronald McDonald House to allow families staying there to attend the games when able. He also took part in a special ceremony in August, where he helped announce that two past residents had won the opportunity to attend the opening ceremonies for the Summer Olympics in Brazil. During the month of September and the Kick Childhood Cancer campaign, Andrew helped gather multiple teammates and Dynamo staff to help serve lunch to families at the house and play games with the kids.
On top of his service to the Ronald McDonald House, Andrew could also be found volunteering at other events throughout the season, including Kid’s Meals, a local Houston organization that provides sack lunches for preschool-aged kids in low income areas. Andrew also was a volunteer coach at multiple youth soccer organizations, and even surprised 15 underprivileged soccer players with new cleats and soccer balls courtesy of Adidas and Academy Sports.
|Evan Bush, Montreal Impact|
|A key contributor to club-related initiatives in 2016, Evan Bush inspires students to persevere and believe in themselves as he visits schools through the “All the way with the Impact” program, regularly visits children at local hospitals, has trained with handicapped youth and taken part in several charity and partnerships events.|
|Kelyn Rowe, New England Revolution|
|Through the Jessie Rees Foundation, Rowe founded “Kelyn’s NEGU (Never, Ever Give Up) Crew” in 2015, a program that invites young cancer patients to Gillette Stadium for unforgettable gameday experiences. In just two seasons, Rowe has hosted 12 young patients at Revolution home games, most recently at the team’s Kick Childhood Cancer match on October 1. Read more about Kelyn Rowe’s charitable efforts HERE.|
|David Villa, NYCFC|
|A consummate leader in all of New York City FC’s community efforts – including the New York City Soccer Initiative that will bring 50 free mini pitches to the Five Boroughs over the next five years.|
|Luke Boden, Orlando City SC|
|Luke Boden is a 27-year-old defender originally from Sheffield, England who has a tremendous heart for children’s health and welfare. Boden married Kerem Rodriguez in December 2013. They have a son Kaleb, who was diagnosed with Nystagmus when he was three months old, a rare disorder that involves an involuntary shaking movement of the eyes. Causes are varied and the condition has no cure.
The Boden’s felt compelled to support ongoing Nystagmus research and clinical trials so they started an online crowdsourcing fund and the couple raised more than $8,000. Boden's teammates helped promote the fundraiser through social media, including Kaká, who tweeted a link to his 24.8 million followers.
In addition to his stellar commitment to his young son, Luke is also a frequent visitor to patients at Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children in Orlando. One of the doctor’s remarked that Luke was so familiar to the staff, the patients, and their families, that they should give him a personalized name badge and a paycheck. Boden also participates annually in Arnie’s March Against Children’s Cancer where funds raised are directed to support cancer research and clinical trials benefiting the children and families battling cancer in Central Florida, and is a longtime supporter of BASE Camp Children’s Cancer Foundation that provides a year-round base of support for children and families who are facing the challenge of living with cancer and other life-threatening hematological illnesses.
|Taylor Washington, Philadelphia Union|
|Taylor Washington has a love for the community. Washington has been a part of programs such as a career day visit for a Hispanic youth group, participating in the READ program, and attending an event in support of pediatric cancer patients. He also makes time to visit Dominic Liples, who is a 9-year-old battling brain tumors, during chemotherapy treatments.|
|Zarek Valentin, Portland Timbers|
|Defender Zarek Valentin was an integral part of the Timbers’ community efforts in 2016. Valentin hosted bilingual reading assemblies at local schools and encouraged the importance of reading at a local library during Stand Together Week, inspired Special Olympics athletes at the Unified Sports exchange program, joined soccer camp participants to encourage healthy lifestyles, and hosted a young boy battling cancer at a training session for a special day with the players and staff.|
|Justen Glad & Jordan Allen, Real Salt Lake|
|Glad and Allen were named Co-Humanitarian’s of the Year for Real Salt Lake after undertaking many of the club’s charitable efforts throughout the year. Their collective contributions to all of RSL’s community initiatives culminated in work with Voterise – a Utah-based nonprofit designed to encourage people to register to vote.|
|Jordan Morris, Seattle Sounders FC|
|As someone living with the daily challenges of type-1 diabetes, Morris has dedicated his time to supporting the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF). A Pacific Northwest regional spokesperson for JDRF, the Sounders rookie was the honorary guest speaker at the 2016 JDRF Gala, where he shared his personal experience as a diabetic. His personal funding page, “Turning Type One Into Type None,” secures $13 for each goal he scores, raising over $10,000 for JDRF in 2016. In addition to numerous appearances on his own time, Morris took center-stage at WE Day Seattle and the 2016 PRIDE Parade, filmed a PSA with a brain cancer patient for Seattle Children’s Run of Hope and established a strong relationship with a young girl named Erin while she conquered leukemia.|
|Shea Salinas, San Jose Earthquakes|
|Shea Salinas dedicates countless hours to community appearances and stays late on the field postgame to greet fans. For the Get Earthquakes Fit program, presented by Sutter Health, Salinas helped the Earthquakes reach a new record number of schools, impacting 3rd and 4th grade students in 40 schools by the end of the 2016 season.|
|Chance Myers, Sporting Kansas City|
|Sporting KC defender Chance Myers is a dedicated supporter of The Victory Project, participating in several impactful events and fundraisers for a foundation that helps children fight cancer and other serious illnesses. He has also fostered the growth of soccer in inner city Kansas City and given charitably to the Ronald McDonald House.|
|Justin Morrow, Toronto FC|
|For the second consecutive season, Justin Morrow continued his summer school reading program to students in at-risk communities in Toronto. Justin created the program to use his influence as a professional athlete to encourage youth to make education and literacy a priority in their lives. Justin selected the books, purchased them for the students and made several visits to the students throughout the summer.|
|Christian Dean, Vancouver Whitecaps FC|
|Christian Dean joined Whitecaps FC in 2014 after being selected third overall in the 2014 MLS SuperDraft. A highly-rated centre back, Dean was inundated with back-to-back injuries this season. Despite the hardships, he has never hesitated to give back to the community. Dean creates personal relationships with fans and frequently visits patients at BC Children’s Hospital. Dean embodies selflessness and what it means to be a champion, on and off the pitch.|