Kei Kamara was not just scoring goals this year for Columbus Crew SC. He was also busy helping build a school in his native land.
Major League Soccer announced on Thursday that Kamara won the 2015 MLS WORKS Humanitarian of the Year, presented by Advocare.
Kamara, a Sierra Leone-native, had an MVP-caliber season on the field in 2015, tying for the league-lead with 22 goals and helping Crew SC to a second place regular season finish in the Eastern Conference. Off the field, his humanitarian efforts made arguably a bigger difference not only in the Columbus area, but also in his home country
Since 2005, Kamara has been working with the Schools for Salone initiative, which has helped rebuild schools in Sierra Leone villages that were destroyed in the country's civil war. To date, the program has built 16 schools and two libraries. This year, Kamara, along with fellow countryman and Philadelphia Union midfielder Michael Lahoud, built the Education for All Primary School for disadvantaged children in Allen Town, East End Freetown, which opened for classes on September 7.
Kamara was six years old when he and his family fled Sierra Leone's devastating civil war to a refugee camp in the Gambia before moving to the United States.
Columbus selected Kamara with the ninth overall pick in the 2006 MLS SuperDraft out of Cal State Dominguez Hills. After also playing for the San Jose Earthquakes, Houston Dynamo, and Sporting Kansas City, he had two stints in England with Norwich City and Middlesbrough before re-signing with Columbus prior to the 2015 season.
A finalist for the 2015 Landon Donovan MLS Most Valuable Player award, Kamara also used Crew SC's community platform, Give Forward, to launch a monthly program to speak to Columbus-area schools and youth centers about his journey and the importance of making the right choices in life.
Kamara has consistently been involved in philanthropic initiatives through his career. He was a finalist for the 2012 MLS WORKS Humanitarian of the Year while with Sporting KC, and was named Sporting KC's Humanitarian of the Year in 2011 and 2012 and again this year with Crew SC.
In recognition of Kamara's efforts, MLS WORKS will donate $5,000 to his charity of choice.
MLS teams had an opportunity to nominate candidates for the award, which were voted on by club officials, media, and MLS players. Below is a breakdown of the voting for the three finalists:
|Player (Club)||% of Club Votes||% of Media Votes||% of Player Votes||Weighted Total|
|Kei Kamara (CLB)||31.33||25.35||13.64||56.3|
|Brad Evans (SEA)||10.91||12.68||5.11||28.7|
|Jeb Brovsky (NYCFC)||10.91||7.04||6.25||24.2|
MLS Humanitarian of the Year Winners
- 2015: Kei Kamara (Columbus Crew SC)
- 2014: AJ DeLaGarza (LA Galaxy)
- 2013: Matt Reis (New England Revolution)
- 2012: Chris Seitz (FC Dallas)
- 2011: Zak Boggs (New England Revolution)
- 2010: Seth Stammler (New York Red Bulls)
- 2009: Jimmy Conrad (Kansas City Wizards); Logan Pause (Chicago Fire)
- 2008: Jose Burciaga Jr. (Colorado Rapids)
- 2007: Diego Gutierrez (Chicago Fire)
- 2006: Michael Parkhurst (New England Revolution)
- 2005: Brian Kamler (Real Salt Lake)
- 2004: Chris Henderson (Colorado Rapids)
- 2003: Ben Olsen (D.C. United)
- 2002: Steve Jolley (MetroStars)
- 2001: Tim Howard (MetroStars)
- 2000: Abdul Thompson Conteh (San Jose Earthquakes)