MLS awards - generic

2019 MLS WORKS Humanitarian of the Year Nominees

Julian Gressel - Atlanta United

This past season, Julian Gressel has gone above and beyond to serve the community of Atlanta. He kicked off the year volunteering as a Special Olympics First-Team Ambassador to our Unified Team, giving 25 hours of his time from March through August to come out to weekly Unified practices and benchmark events throughout the season. He created special bonds with our athletes that will carry over in seasons to come.

He also developed a unique bond with a very special little boy named Owen Klemme – a 4-year-old from Alpharetta, Ga. who was diagnosed in February of 2018 with Neuroblastoma, a cancer that develops from immature cells found in several areas of the body and his brain. The team hosted Owen for a VIP experience at the training ground in May where he was treated to a behind-the-scenes tour, special lunch filled with his favorite foods, and kicking around with the entire team following practice. In doing so, it was quickly realized that there was something special brewing between Owen and Julian which has resulted in both families becoming close friends since that day. Julian has visited Owen multiple times at his house for Sunday dinner, in the hospital throughout his treatments, and created special moments at Atlanta United matches.

On top of these moments with the club, Julian personally partnered with local non-profit youth soccer program, Soccer In the Streets, for a series of fundraising efforts that totaled $90,000 raised on behalf of his efforts with the organization.

Julian has set the bar at a whole other level not only within his own team, but for MLS as a whole.

CJ Sapong - Chicago Fire

Chicago Fire striker CJ Sapong, founder of non-profit Sacred Seeds, which promotes and enhances the growth of underserved communities through sustenance and self-sustainability, has furthered his philanthropic passions by dedicating his time to the Chicago Fire Foundation’s award-winning P.L.A.Y.S. Program. The P.L.A.Y.S. Program is a 10-week program that integrates soccer with social and emotional learning character skills to ultimately improve participants’ academic performance, while providing a safe and supportive environment to engage in soccer. Through the P.L.A.Y.S. Program, Sapong has given guidance to various Chicago Public School students to encourage them to be motivated, stay in school and focus on the values of hard work, teamwork and discipline.

Jimmy McLaughlin - FC Cincinnati

One of Philadelphia's first-ever Homegrown players, he made only three MLS appearances over four years. He signed with FCC's USL club as an original signing in 2016, and earned a return contract to MLS following the 2018 campaign. However, his dreams of playing in MLS once again were stalled after suffering a season-ending ACL tear two weeks before reporting for preseason camp. Now out for the season, McLaughlin - a fan favorite - has remained visible and active by becoming the club's most visible community participant. In fact, soon after arriving in Cincy for the initial 2019 team meeting, he approached the club's head of CR and asked to be very active in community initiatives. In a time when postgame autographs are seen as an annoyance (at best) to players, he is often one of the last players signing well after time has expired - even on games when he is not scheduled. Jimmy also goes beyond the quick hello and takes time to really get to know members of our community. He's formed several relationships with the kids and families he has met at hospital visits and finds special ways to connect with them. He invited one soccer player who experienced a brain injury out to training and to pass the ball around. He connects with another family he met at a hospital visit at almost every home game. While an adopted Cincinnati resident, he's committed to the club's community platform because he truly cares about his new hometown of Cincinnati and the people he has met here the last few years.

Tim Howard - Colorado Rapids

Tim Howard will go down in American soccer history as one of the country’s all-time greats.  He’s made an impact on his teammates, supporters, and the community throughout his career.  From his time with MetroStars, into the Premier League with Manchester United and Everton, his heroics with the US Men’s National team, and then as the captain of the Colorado Rapids, Howard has been a hero to his fans and a leader on the field; he has also been an outspoken advocate for greater awareness, research, and community support for a very personal cause in Tourette syndrome advocacy.  He has spent his career acting as an advocate and a role model, utilizing his platform to bring support and awareness for those fans and kids that are impacted by TS.  Since signing with the Rapids in 2016, Howard worked to develop the Howard’s Heroes program.   The program offered the opportunity for kids and families with TS to be hosted at a Rapids match both home and away and meet with Howard.  During each meeting, Howard sits down to spend time answering questions from the family and the child, shares advice on how he’s been able to succeed despite the disability, but also to hear each of their stories and encourages them to champion their lives and find inspiration in each of their stories. Howard is utilizing his platform and his own unique experience to connect with fans, and those living with TS, in order to bring awareness, advocate for research, but also in the most personal way, to serve as a support system and a role model.

Luis Argudo - Columbus Crew SC

Luis Argudo is currently in his second season in MLS. In 2019, Argudo served as the face of 2019’s Get a Kick Out of Reading program with the Milo Grogan Boys & Girl Club, helping promote the importance of reading and education. Additionally, he has volunteered in local youth soccer clinics and recently hosted a bowling and pizza Party for pediatric cancer patients/survivors and their families as part of MLS WORKS’ Kick Childhood Cancer campaign. Argudo is also slated to participate in a community clean up day in the near future.

Ryan Hollingshead - FC Dallas

Whether he is representing FC Dallas or on his own time, Ryan Hollingshead is committed to making a difference in his community. Beginning in the 2018 season, Hollingshead kicked off Ryan’s NEGU Crew. With support from the Jessie Rees Foundation, he has hosted children battling cancer at numerous FC Dallas matches, ensuring that these courageous kiddos have a VIP experience complete with a personalized jersey, on-field meet-and-greet, and much more. Hollingshead has also volunteered his time with My Possibilities, a non-profit organization dedicated to providing people with cognitive disabilities the chance to continue their education by focusing on vocational skills, socialization opportunities, trade skills, and independent living skills.

Bill Hamid - D.C. United

Bill Hamid, D.C. United starting goalkeeper, was named the team’s DC SCORES ambassador at the beginning of the season. DC SCORES is the official community partner of D.C. United and the leading provider of after school youth programming in Washington D.C. As ambassador, Hamid works directly with the DC SCORES youth poet-athletes by attending their games and events, as well as attending the organization’s fundraising events. He also grants scholarships to his goalkeeping clinics to DC SCORES poet-athletes. When named ambassador, Hamid said, “I’m honored and excited to join DC SCORES – I’ve been a fan for years, and I’m ready to get to work!”

Outside of DC SCORES, he has served as one of the team’s ambassadors at various community events, including the grand opening of The Fields at RFK Campus and the DC Health & Fitness Expo. Other organizations he is involved with are Becky’s Fund (domestic violence prevention) and Schools for Salone (global education).

Kevin Garcia - Houston Dynamo

Throughout the 2019 MLS season, Kevin Garcia was not only an integral part of the team on the field, but also a huge supporter of the Houston community off the field. Kevin kicked of the 2019 season by working the local non-profit Kids Meals Inc, which delivers free healthy meals to the doorsteps of Houston’s hungriest preschool-aged children. Kevin also become a member of the advisory board for Kids Meals and helped to champion support around the city for this great organization.

A tireless advocate of cancer research and prevention, Kevin spent time each week volunteering to sit with patients at Texas Children’s Hospital in the Woodlands during their Dialysis and Chemo treatments. He would often bring along other player from the team to hang out with these young patients going through difficult times.

He also started a program called- Kicking Cancer with Kevin- During each Home game Kevin would invite one of the young cancer patients that he had met down to the Dynamo home game. He would provide the kid and their family tickets for the game. Post-game Kevin would bring the family back to the locker room and introduce the kids to his teammates. Additionally, he has regularly volunteered with the club’s jersey partner, MD Anderson Cancer Center, to spend time with patients including helping young patients pick out tuxes and dresses for MD Anderson’s annual Prom Party.

Kevin exemplifies what it means to be a humanitarian and worked tirelessly throughout the season to help support the youth in the Houston Community.

Tyler Miller - LAFC

LAFC goalkeeper Tyler Miller has shown continued dedication to the community since arriving in Los Angeles ahead of the 2018 season. This year, Miller hosted his second annual beach soccer tournament and fundraiser in Santa Monica, donating all proceeds to the Austen Everett Foundation. He also teamed up with LAFC and Kaiser Permanente and spent an afternoon with pediatric oncology patients. He ended the visit by partaking in a special end-of-treatment ceremony for one of the patients.

Matt Lampson - LA Galaxy

The veteran goalkeeper has been active in raising awareness for Hodgkin’s Lymphoma since 2013 when he started the LampStrong Foundation (which became an official 501(c)3 in 2014), after being diagnosed with the disease himself at the age of 17. Matt Lampson beat the disease and signed his first professional contract eight years ago with Columbus Crew SC.

While in Columbus, Lampson became the Spokesperson for the Central Ohio Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS) Chapter, and in addition to helping raise awareness for blood cancers, he began giving back to the children who were experiencing what he did. Lampson launched the Hero Program and for the last seven years, he has hosted a child battling cancer along with his/her family at each of his MLS matches. This year with the LA Galaxy, Matt Lampson has hosted 32 children battling cancer at every game, home and away, as well as handful of children during Galaxy training sessions at Dignity Health Sports Park.

Additionally, Lampson regularly visits Children’s Hospital Los Angeles (CHLA) to see and speak to cancer patients at CHLA. He dedicates his time and makes monthly visits to CHLA as part as his commitment to positively influence the lives of those battling cancer and encourage and inspire survivors to make the most out of their second chance at life. This year, Lampson and his foundation are making a $20,000 donation to the CHLA oncology for adolescent and young adult patients battling the disease.

Earlier this year, Lampson attended the Gift of Life Celebration of Life Gala where he accepted the LA Galaxy Foundation’s award as the Community Partner of the Year. He also frequently attends LA Galaxy Foundation and Community Relation events, including the yearly LA Galaxy Foundation Golf Tournament Presented by San Manuel Casino. Lampson also hosted Freddy, a Make a Wish recipient at one of the team’s training sessions this year. In support of Pediatric Awareness Month, Lampson has partnered with LA Galaxy Foundation and Alcatel to host 50 CHLA patients and their family members at the September 21 match against Montreal Impact. Patients will be hosted in a suite provided by Matt Lampson, will be recognized on the field for pregame warmups and Lampson will host a meet and greet postgame.

The mission of the LampStrong Foundations is to provide difference-making financial, emotional and motivational support to cancer patients and families in all the stages of cancer treatment and recovery and to fund proven cancer researchers.

Lawrence Olum - Minnesota United FC

Defensive midfielder Lawrence Olum made his way to MLS in a fairly unique manner. Olum was discovered at 18-years-old in his hometown of Nairobe, Kenya by a college coach who saw his talent and provided Olum with a full scholarship to Missouri Baptist University. While he accounts his longevity and success in MLS to hard work, he doesn’t deny the opportunity, and luck, to have played college soccer in the U.S. didn’t play a major role. Now, the eight-year MLS veteran tries to pay his good luck forward to youth in his community.

In 2017, while playing for the Portland Timbers, Lawrence Olum started the Lawrence Olum Foundation with the aim to identify, nurture and grow youth sporting talent through education in Kenya. The foundation’s main goal is to provide kids with an education. Sports is merely the supplement, a means to find noteworthy students. Kids who show promise in school and the three sports the foundation focuses on — soccer, basketball and volleyball — are identified. Then Olum and the foundation support them through scholarships or other means, such as getting them in front of coaches, just like that one day in Kenya.

Since his move to Minnesota, Olum has been connecting with people in his new community to continue the work he started in Portland. On Saturday, September 14, he hosted his first Lawrence Olum Foundation Clinic in Minnesota to raise money for the organization.

James Pantemis - Montreal Impact

Montreal Impact Goalkeeper James Pantemis has shown continuous investment to the Montreal community. Pantemis has been actively involved with the youth by visiting many schools, talking about perseverance. He also took part in the “Club de soccer Mercier-Hochelaga-Maisonneuve” tournament and participated in three BMO Soccer Celebration events. Pantemis also helped raise funds through the Montreal Impact Foundation to help improve the quality of life for underprivileged children and their families by attending the annual charity footgolf tournament and the “C’est mieux en bleu” event. He also raised awareness for the fight against prostate cancer through the Procure annual walk.

Scott Caldwell - New England Revolution

Massachusetts native Scott Caldwell continues to be an unrivaled ambassador for his hometown club, devoting his available time to every one of the Revolution’s community endeavors, including childhood cancer awareness, Boston Pride, Special Olympics, Boston Scores, and much more. In 2019, Caldwell made history as the first active professional athlete ever to march in the Boston Pride Parade. This season, Caldwell partnered with Boston Children’s Hospital to establish “Scott’s BCH Dream Team”, hosting patients and their families at home games throughout the season. The Homegrown Player is also heavily involved in organizing clinics with Project GOAL, a Rhode Island-based non-profit group, and is one of the leaders in the club’s partnership with Boston Scores, spearheading financial literacy seminars with Scores students and lending his expertise at multiple clinics. For the fifth straight season, Caldwell also remains closely involved with the Special Olympics Massachusetts Unified team, supporting the Unified athletes at their clinics and games all year long.

Brad Stuver - New York City FC

Since Brad moved to New York City in December of 2017, he has been an impactful role model to the youth of the five boroughs. Community work has always played a role in Brad’s life. Five years ago, Brad teamed up with the Laundry Project to provide resources in underserved communities to have access to clean clothing and since joining NYCFC he has helped expand the program to locally in NYC. Brad always raises his hand to participate in community projects like Playing for Pride, an initiative to unite athlete ambassadors to raise funds for the advocacy group. This past year, Brad used his influence, skill, and passion to coach youth in The Bronx, the NYPD Men’s soccer team in the Local Ford Classic, at City Football School in Abu Dhabi and with Street Soccer USA, a national nonprofit that uses the power of soccer to help people of all ages and backgrounds discover their strengths and take positive steps forward in their lives. Brad spends his time out in the community because it’s something he genuinely enjoys. He understands that eyes are on him and wants to use his role as a professional athlete to do good.

Luis Robles - New York Red Bulls

New York Red Bulls goalkeeper Luis Robles continues to expand on his humanitarian efforts. In addition to monthly hospital visits and personal donations, Robles and his wife, Cara, host an annual Gala in conjunction with Hackensack Meridian Health, will all proceeds going to Tackle Kids Cancer.

This season, Robles also connected with several families of children with serious illnesses, hosting them at Red Bulls Training Facility and Red Bulls matches. Robles gave the children a chance to see a day in the life of a professional athlete, but also took it upon himself to experience a day in their life, visiting their hospitals and seeing their treatment and care routines. Additional awareness was raised through a video series about the program.

Robles and his teammates have also partnered with Hackensack Meridian Health and Tackle Kids Cancer to design custom boots to wear for warmups during September, Childhood Cancer Awareness month. The Red Bulls are each matched with a local pediatric cancer patient, and the two spend the day together at Red Bulls Training Facility before sitting down to draw their custom designs over lunch.

Robles also walked in the Laureus Sport for Good fashion show, joining a host of other star athletes at a benefit Gala and fashion show, with all proceeds going directly to support The Laureus Foundations work to provide children from all backgrounds access to high-quality sports programs.

Chris Mueller - Orlando City SC

Chris Mueller is only in his second season with Orlando City Soccer Club but he has already made a big impact in the hearts and minds of our local community. Chris is well known for his easy smile, his tireless work effort, and unfailing positive outlook. He is quick to volunteer for charitable appearances and he is always willing to donate his time and talent, particularly in serving youth. Chris demonstrates tremendous empathy, care, and patience with each young fan he meets - whether it is a Special Olympics Unified athlete - or a pediatric cancer patient from our local children's hospital. He has made several personal charitable donations for Orlando City Foundation fundraising events and volunteers for our free soccer programming for under-served youth in our community. He is passionate about sharing The Beautiful Game and has launched a collaborative endeavor to bring soccer balls to those who need it most, locally and internationally.

Warren Creavalle - Philadelphia Union

Warren Creavalle has combined his passion for fashion with being a mentor in the local community of Chester, PA. Partnering with a student from Swarthmore College, the duo started "Design FC", an after school program where they work with fifth and sixth graders on creative thinking, expression and design. They worked with the students to come up with designs that held personal meanings to each student and put those designs on jerseys. The students were taught the entire process from the creative thinking and conceptualization, to creating the actual products. The semester's worth of work culminated in a showcase at the school where the students were able to display their jerseys and explain the meaning behind their final products.

Zarek Valentin - Portland Timbers

In 2019, Zarek Valentin became the first Timbers player to be honored three times as the team’s Community MVP. Valentin participated in a community project when the team traveled to Costa Rica, interacting with 60 youth at a local soccer club, donating over 100 books and 20 One World Footballs to the club. Valentin continued his work with his #RibbonZ campaign, raising more than $25,000 for two LGBTQ organizations with the creation of five patches with Patch Patrol.

Kyle Beckerman - Real Salt Lake

Wearing the captain's armband for RSL since 2008, Beckerman has become a staple for club for the past 13 seasons. He has played in 29,290 minutes across the regular season, scoring 30 goals and providing 38 assists. One of the league's most recognizable players, Beckerman helped usher the club to an MLS Cup Championship in 2009 and an MLS Cup Final in 2013 before featuring in the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil for the United States where he played significant minutes.

In 2019, Kyle Beckerman partnered with Mylo Fowler in an effort to provide power and light to the Navajo Reservation. Because they lack power and light, children on the reservation regularly fall behind in school due to an inability to complete homework and reading assignments. As part of the MLS Greener Goals initiative, the RSL Foundation raised $12,000 by auctioning RSL’s Parley jerseys in 2019 and those funds went towards providing solar power to homes in the Navajo Reservation. Beckerman and Fowler traveled to the reservation and helped install the equipment in homes and the existing funds will go towards lighting 50 homes. Beckerman’s further efforts will go towards the greater goal of lighting all 18,000 homes on the Navajo Reservation that are currently without power and garner the recognition of this issue on reservations throughout the country.

Tommy Thompson - San Jose Earthquakes

Defender Tommy Thompson continues to serve as the club’s ambassador for the Get EQ Fit Program, presented by Sutter Health, where he travels to local schools to speak about eating healthy and living an active lifestyle. Thompson has also overseen numerous VHP Free Play Days, an open-to-the-public, stress-free soccer environment that’s held in various underserved areas. He even volunteered to participate in fan meet-and-greets in the wake of the Gilroy Garlic Festival Shooting to help raise money for the victim’s fund.

Stefan Frei - Seattle Sounders FC

Stefan Frei was instrumental in granting a Make-A-Wish experience for Bheem Goyal, an 8-year-old battling Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia who underwent eight months of intense chemotherapy earlier this year. Bheem regularly reenacted Frei’s save from the 2016 MLS Cup and claimed it as the best moment of his life, so Frei knew he had to go big to inspire Bheem in the fight for his life. What started as an invitation from Frei for Bheem to train with him and Sounders FC goalkeepers for a day turned into Bheem being named as the youngest goalkeeper in Sounders FC history, making his MLS debut in goal in front of 40,000 fans during Sounders FC’s friendly vs. Borussia Dortmund. The debut earned international coverage and over 1.8 million views on social media alone. Bheem also joined Frei at Sounders FC’s Fan Appreciation Day where the two perfected Goyal’s autograph while meeting and signing autographs for adoring fans.

This is not Frei’s first time lending a hand to kick childhood cancer. Over the past few years he has worked with Sounders FC fan Christine O’Connell to design custom scarves where 100% of proceeds go to Strong Against Cancer at Children’s Hospital. Over the past couple years, they have helped raise over $70,000 for cancer research at Seattle Children’s Hospital through Scarves Fighting Cancer.

Ilie Sánchez - Sporting Kansas City

On the field, Ilie Sanchez was a 2018 MLS All-Star and is a lynchpin in the lineup for Sporting Kansas City - appearing in 101 of the club's 103 MLS matches since his arrival in 2017.

Off the field, Ilie has been every bit as active and impactful in the community. Widely considered the nicest athlete in Kansas City, Ilie is a true role model for all of those around him with a big heart and even bigger vision for giving back to the community.

Among his many acts of philanthropy, Ilie has gone above and beyond in his longstanding involvement with Special Olympics, attending practices and games as well as mentoring kids in the program.

He has also donated his time and talents over the past two years to Braden's Hope for Childhood Cancer to raise awareness and funds for pediatric cancer research. In addition, Ilie is the club's most gracious ambassador in welcoming children with cancer to meet the team in conjunction with every home match, bringing smiles and comfort during particularly difficult times for many of these kids and their families.

Ilie is also dedicated to empowering the next generation of aspiring athletes in the local soccer community. He is the club's most frequent attendee at youth camps and clinics, taking time to speak to and personally connect with the kids, and he brings a particular passion to providing opportunities for underserved and/or underprivileged youth.

Jonathan Osorio - Toronto FC

Toronto FC midfielder Jonathan Osorio has spent the 2019 season contributing on and off the pitch for the club. Jonathan continues to build a strong relationship with the Hospital For Sick Children, purchasing and donating season tickets for all games at BMO Field to patients and their families. Osorio frequently meets with patients pregame and makes drop in visits to the hospital, and also helped with a garden planting initiative at the hospital in support of MLS Greener Goals week of service. In addition to his work with Sick Kids Hospital, Jonathan visited a training session with our Special Olympics Unified Team and hosted a soccer clinic of 75 youth at BMO Training Ground.

Scott Sutter - Vancouver Whitecaps FC

Scott Sutter has been an exceptional community ambassador for Whitecaps FC in his first year with the club. The personable and positive right back has made numerous charitable appearances this season, and has even started his own initiative, the Sutter’s Seats program, where he welcomes BC Children’s Hospital patients and their families to every home match. His contributions to the team extend far off the pitch and the local community has benefited greatly from his efforts.