SEATTLE – Following the announcement of the franchise’s new RAVE Foundation last week, the Seattle Sounders officially kicked off their latest philanthropic endeavor with a launch event at the Yesler Community Center in Seattle on Monday.
A collection of guest speakers were on hand, including Sounders Owner Adrian Hanauer, U.S. Congressman Adam Smith and Sounders midfielder Osvaldo Alonso, as well as RAVE Foundation director Maya Mendoza-Exstrom.
Former Sounders midfielder Roger Levesque, who currently serves as the club’s Director of Community Outreach, hosted the event.
The RAVE Foundation’s main focus is on facilitating the growth of youth soccer in communities that may not have the resources to grow the game themselves, something that both Levesque and Mendoza-Exstrom expanded on in their remarks to the audience.
“The challenge in America is complex, but the data is clear,” Mendoza-Exstrom said. “Soccer is becoming is becoming a sport of the suburbs. If you cannot afford to play it, it’s hard to access. The reality is in stark contrast to everywhere else in the world where kids grow up playing on the streets, the church courtyards, the town plazas or any other flat patch of ground they can find.”
To combat that suburbanization, the RAVE Foundation will facilitate the construction of small fields in different communities throughout the area, the idea being that kids will then have an easily accessible, free spot to play.
Speaking with reporters following the event on Monday, Levesque also touched on the foundation’s goal of making the sport accessible to wider assortment of communities.
“That’s the gap the RAVE Foundation is trying to address,” Levesque said. “Not only with the fields and an opportunity for free play, but also partnering with [other organizations] that work with under-served kids from under-served areas.”
“Not only do we want to provide the opportunity for free play, but we really want to develop relationships with the neighborhoods that the fields are in and work to introduce them to some of those organizations.”
Yesler Park will be one of the first locations to benefit, with next spring currently the target for construction on a field at the facility to begin. Monday’s event, Levesque said, is hopefully just a starting point.
“This was a great lead-in to what the RAVE Foundation hopes to accomplish here in Yesler,” Levesque said. “I’m so excited to be a part of this community project in this neighborhood and for there to be a soccer field that kids are excited to go to, visit with their friends, come down with their family, kick a ball around.”
In the end, the foundation’s goal is simply to provide kids with an outlet that affords them with an opportunity to be physically active, social and productive, Mendoza-Exstrom said.
“We know that if you give a soccer ball and a safe place to play, you empower that kid to make good decisions, to be healthy, to be inclusive and hopefully to play and have fun,” Mendoza-Exstrom said. “That, in turn, strengthens our communities.”