FEDERAL WAY – Lamar Neagle can’t help but grin as he watches children kick the ball around at Steel Lake Park on a sunny Wednesday. He’s reminiscing about the countless hours he spent on those very fields as a kid.
“Right over there, I used to play all the time,” he says. “It’s pretty cool to come back and be able to do something in the community.”
Neagle was thrilled to return to Sounders FC in 2013 after spending a year with the Montreal Impact. Not only could he get back to playing in front of his hometown’s fans, but the Federal Way native was once again able to serve the group of people he cares about the most. He went on to become the 2013 Sounders FC Humanitarian of the Year.
This week, Neagle displayed the substantial impact he continues to have on youth in the Seattle area.
Neagle, accompanied by Sounders teammates Sean Okoli and Josh Ford, took part of his day off from training to make an appearance at Steel Lake Park. They gathered to celebrate a donation made by the Neagle Foundation, a nonprofit that was founded in 2011 but remained inactive until Neagle returned to Seattle last year. His organization recently donated to the One Million Meals Campaign, which provides free meals during the summer for low-income children in King County. It was the second donation made by the Neagle Foundation this year.
As part of the festivities, Neagle and his two teammates interacted with some of those local children, posing for pictures and signing autographs at the park on Wednesday. Charity events have become a regular aspect of Neagle’s life, one that was missing during his season in Montreal.
“I didn’t have the community outreach platform that I do here,” Neagle said. “And I always told myself that when I got back – I always knew that I would be back in Seattle eventually – I wouldn’t waste any time and I would definitely start my foundation up right away and start giving back. …This is why I created my foundation, to give back to these programs that can help kids in the community.”
The One Million Meals Campaign falls right in line with the goals of Neagle’s foundation. During the school year, nearly 100,000 low-income children in King County are given free or reduced-price meals by the USDA. But that program doesn’t run during the summer, when most of the children do not have another way of obtaining reduced-price meals. The Neagle Foundation partnered with United Way to help fill the gap.
Neagle was a ball boy for the USL Sounders, so he remembers looking up to professional athletes and viewing them as role models. That’s why – even when the Sounders have limited days to rest between matches – Neagle dedicates his time to underserved children.
In addition to Wednesday’s event, Neagle participated in a charity softball game at Safeco Field, the FIFA 15 Fan Fest event, and a donation program for the Oso mudslide, all in the past month. Some of his teammates are becoming more involved in the community as a result. Okoli, also a native of Federal Way, looks forward to joining forces with Neagle in the future to continue providing support for local youth.
“Lamar is showing me the way,” he said. “I’m just going to try to follow in his footsteps and move forward with it.”
Okoli is also following in Neagle’s footsteps out on the pitch. Ford said on Wednesday that Neagle is just as charitable in the locker room as he is in the community. He’s constantly trying to help the younger players whose position he was in just a few years ago.
Neagle and Ford agreed that giving back is one of the best aspects of being a professional athlete. It makes you forget about the defeats, and it also makes you realize that wins and losses are not as important as providing support to those who need it.
“This type of activity gives you perspective on everything,” Neagle said. “To be able to have this position to give back is huge, and I think it’s something we definitely should take advantage of.”