Sounders Fan Wins Community Award

Gorilla FC's Katie Pendleton has worked with Steve Zakuani, James Riley and others in fundraisers and other community activities through soccer. (Photo Courtesy Jane Gershovich/JaneGPhotography.com.)

Life has been crazy for Katie Pendleton over the last two years.

A soccer enthused fan enlivened by the new MLS club in Seattle just two years ago, she has now entrenched herself in the role of organizing charity events and fundraisers to better the community around her, using soccer as the platform.

Now her work with Gorilla FC, the Sounders FC and Steve Zakuani’s Kingdom Hope, among others, has earned her the MLS W.O.R.K.S. The Home Depot Community Award and a trip to Toronto for the MLS Cup final, where she, along with the 15 winners from the other teams around Major League Soccer, will be recognized at halftime for her efforts.

Hers is the story of a perfect storm – a great circumstance finding the ideal person in the right situation to bring an incredible success.

One day Pendleton was in search of a ticket to a Sounders FC match.  Earlier she met Kevin Zelko, the head of Sounders FC supporter group Gorilla FC at a viewing party for a Seattle away match at Fado Irish pub.  She asked Zelko if he had any spare tickets with Gorilla FC.  He told her a ticket was all hers if she would dress like a banana to accompany the supporter group's popular gorilla-costumed fan in the south end zone.

“When am I going to get the chance to be chased around by a gorilla in downtown Seattle?” she laughed.

The rest, as they say, is history.

Already active in fundraising and community outreach for the Bellevue Art Museum, Pendleton started coordinating benefit events for Gorilla FC and quickly started involving herself in all things Sounders.

She was integral in putting together a benefit for Doctors Without Borders after the disasters in Haiti in January.  Hoping to raise $2,500 for the cause, Pendleton and Gorilla FC organized the event around a US National Team friendly that would feature Sounders FC midfielder Brad Evans.  If the match couldn’t draw enough support, surely appearances by Zakuani, Patrick Ianni and James Riley could.

When the people started streaming in to the George and Dragon pub in Fremont, those expectations slowly grew … and grew … and grew.

By the end of the night, they had raised nearly $12,000 and another donation a day later pushed the total over an astonishing $20,000.

“It was amazing.  It was great to see the community come together and help out.  The response was more than we ever imagined,” said Pendleton, who also serves on the Sounders FC Alliance Council.  “The bar was packed and everybody had a great time.”

Since then, she has helped organize a 7-A-Side Youth Soccer Tournament with James Riley that raised over $5,000 for the Renton/Skyway Boys & Girls Club and has worked with development and events for Kingdom Hope, conducting youth soccer clinics.

The work has been a labor of love for Pendleton, a Seattle University alum who played ODP soccer growing up in Bozeman, Montana.

“I’ve always had a passion for soccer and the fact we have an MLS team and that I can incorporate my coordinating skills and help the community and being part of something bigger is great,” she said.

Pendleton will fly this weekend to Toronto with her sister for the MLS Cup Final between the Colorado Rapids and FC Dallas where she will be presented with the MLS W.O.R.K.S. The Home Depot Community Award.  Already, though, she is working on big plans for Gorilla FC and their over 300 paid members for 2011.

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