It’s not everyday that soccer can change lives, but this is exactly what happened Thursday night in Chester.
Anyone that has ever been to a Union game understands the city that the team calls home. PPL Park may be a grandiose architectural marvel but it looks down on a small, urban town that has seen its share of trouble.
Times were hard for Chester in the past, crime was rampant and tension within the community was being reported nationwide, something had to change.
At the same time that Chester was taking a turn for the worse the Philadelphia Union chose Chester as the place where they wanted to start to their soccer journey. This was a monumental decision for the city of Chester because it meant that not only would thousands of people flood their city on weekends, but more importantly there were going to be thousands of jobs now open community members in desperate need of a fresh start.
The “Union” between soccer and Chester was born.
— Philadelphia Union (@PhilaUnion) August 14, 2014
Five years later Chester has proven to be a perfect home for a professional soccer team, and many of Chester’s own work in various positions throughout PPL Park. Since the city has been such a gracious host it was time for the Union to give back to the community it calls home.
This came to fruition on Thursday night when the Philadelphia Union, the Philadelphia Union Foundation, and the Chester-Upland School District partnered to launch the Safe Playground at Showalter School in the heart of Chester.
Basking in the late summer evening air Chester residents and Union staff came together under the necessity to create a safer Chester. The Mayor of Chester John Linder and Union CEO Nick Sakiewicz were on hand to offer words of appreciation for what the soccer team is trying to do for the community.
But the night was truly about the kids.
In places like Chester soccer is rarely the sport of choice, in fact many residents don’t know anything about it because of its lack of exposure to the national market. The Union is looking to change all this for the young people of Chester and starts with things like the Safe Playground initiative. If you ever visit Showalter School the first thing you will see is a field, but this not your typical grade school back yard.
This field has two nets, freshly cut grass, and is enclosed with signs similar to what you would see around the field at PPL, it looks like a youth training ground for a European soccer team.
A field that on Thursday night was teeming with youngsters kicking and chasing soccer balls, a sight that five years ago would have been impossible to see, which makes it all the more beautiful. The residents of Chester looked on with smiles from ear to ear, the air smelled of hot dogs and happiness, it was a moment in the city’s history that may prove to be truly special.
For right now it’s a start, the Safe Playground is a representation of everyone in the city saying no to violence and yes to progression, in the words of Mayor Linder “it’s the perfect representation of unity in the community.”
It’s fitting that the name of the professional soccer team that calls Chester home is the Union because that is just what was on display on Thursday.
A Union that steps outside of the realm of soccer and understands giving back is always a good way to move forward.
Contact Union writer Doug Ammon at email@example.com
The Philadelphia Union Foundation will host a School Supply Drive during the next two home matches on August 9 and August 24. Fans are encouraged to drop off unused school supplies such as notebooks, pens/pencils, binders, paper, scissors, markers and rulers.
- Collections taking place two hours prior to kick and end at kickoff.
- Collection locations: Toyota Plaza and Sons of Ben tailgate area.
- When you donate, you are entered to win a post-game autograph session at a future game.
- Proceeds to benefit City Team Ministries, Chester and their back-to-school carnival on August 23.
In preparation for the Safe Playgrounds Launch on August 14th, the Philadelphia Union Foundation held a Neighborhood Meet and Greet at Showalter Middle School. In conjunction with the City of Chester and the Chester-Upland School District, the Meet and Greet gathered neighbors in Chester and talked about taking back playgrounds in the area and making them safe. The gathering was a huge success with many public figures in attendance:
- Chester Mayor - John Linder
- State Representative - Thaddeus Kirkland
- Chester Community Liaisons - Nicole Cogdell & Jonathan “Rahim” King
- Chester Councilwoman Portia West
- Chester Councilwoman Elizabeth Williams
- District Attorney for Delaware County – Jack Whelan
- Philadelphia Union, VP of Community Affairs – Rick Jacobs
- Philadelphia Union, Manager of Community Affairs – Leah Moore
- Chester City United Founder - Pat Trippley
- Showalter Community Partners
The Foundation continues to make an impact on the places they visit. They were able to create a safety line painted on the streets adjacent to the playground and paint the no parking signs. There will be big changes around the playground in the near future with the installation of three new street lights shining on the park, a new park entrance, newly featured slow down signs and a regular landscaping schedule.
Interested in attending our Safe Playgrounds Launch?
Date: August 14, 2014
Time: 6:00 p.m.-8:00 p.m.
Location: Showalter School- 1100 W. 10 Street, Chester, PA
Join the Philadelphia Union Foundation for the launch of Safe Playground on August 14th from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. The launch will be held at Showalter School (1100 W. 10th Street, Chester, PA).
The program is run by the Chester City Office of the Community Liaisons, Chester-Upland School District, Philadelphia Union and the Philadelphia Union Foundation.
The evening will include family activities, music and entertainment, a Q&A session and remarks by Mayor Linder and other community representatives.
Date: August 14, 2014
Time: 6:00 p.m.-8:00 p.m.
Location: Showalter School- 1100 W. 10 Street, Chester, PA
For more information on the Safe Playground initiative, check out Safe Corridors, the umbrella program for Safe Playground.
He doesn’t have to do it.
For Brent Jacquette, his time could be better served enjoying the moments of his day when he’s not trying to make the Widener men’s soccer team better through recruiting and working on drills. But in addition to doing all of that he’s in the Chester community and its surrounding suburbs working diligently on the Chester-Upland’s "Soccer for Success" program.
Soccer for Success is a program that was started just last year with Jacquette as director to inspire and empower Chester’s youth using soccer as a conduit.
Naturally kids learn how to pass and shoot, but Jacquette and his staff also preach what is called the “four pillars” of success:
- Physical activity
- Family Engagement
The great strides Soccer for Success has made since its inception has now been recognized by Major League Soccer.
On Friday, July 12 the League announced that Jacquette was selected as a finalist for its Community MVP award, given to a community leader that “uses the world’s game to make a difference on a local level,” according to MLS chief administrative officer JoAnn Neale.
In the Soccer for Success program, participants are encouraged to have 60 minutes of physical activity a day, followed by making the correct nutritional choices.
Coaches function as mentors to emphasize teamwork and dedication, while also providing a safe and fun setting. When the hour is up, it is almost impossible to get the kids to wind down and head inside.
Vote Soccer for Success director Brent Jacquette for MLSWORKS Community MVP: http://bit.ly/JacquetteVote
Now you have a chance to show your appreciation for Jacquette’s selfless act of civic responsibility. Fan voting has opened for the MLS Community MVP. Vote now through July 25 using this link: http://bit.ly/JacquetteVote. You can also show your vote of support by copy and pasting this post on Twitter: “I vote for the @MLSWORKS @WellsFargo @PhilaUnion #CommunityMVP”
Voting ends on July 25 at noon. The grand prize winner will be announced on Friday, July 25 at 2pm ET via twitter by @MLSWORKS.
Help us make sure that when the votes are tallied, the winner is Jacquette for all that he does each day in the Chester community.
Philadelphia Union and The Philadelphia Union Foundation will hold their fourth annual River Cup on September 6 at 11:30 a.m., the club announced today. The one of a kind event features the Union front office and technical staff against the Union supporters group, the Sons of Ben, in a spirited match on the pitch at PPL Park. However, this year the fun doesn’t stop when the game ends. Guests are invited to stay and check out the inaugural “Delaware River Craft Brewfest” that will be held on Toyota Plaza as well as cheer on Philadelphia Union as they take on Toronto FC live from Canada on the video board inside PPL Park.
Combination River Cup and Brewfest tickets, as well as individual River Cup tickets, will be available for purchase via or at the PPL Park Box Office. All proceeds from River Cup will benefit The Philadelphia Union Foundation.
“We are about tradition at Philadelphia Union and The Philadelphia Union Foundation,” said Rick Jacobs, Executive Director of the Philadelphia Union Foundation. “That’s why we are so excited to continue the tradition of our River Cup, now in our fourth year. There’s no better way to raise money for our Foundation Building Blocks than partnering with Sons of Ben, the most committed and loyal supporters group in all of MLS.”
The Delaware River Craft Brewfest includes live music and entertainment, gourmet food options, and a variety of vendors, including over 100 breweries. The event will feature a sampling of the best crafts, imports and ciders from the United States and around the world. Samples of limited-release beers such as Goose Island Bourbon County and Scratch Series from Troegs will also be available. Breweries on site include Victory, Troegs, Anchor, Rogue, Full Sail, Evolution, Starr Hill, Long Trail, Goose Island, Old Dominion, Lancaster and Magic Hat.
"The Sons of Ben are again excited to participate in the River Cup with the Philadelphia Union Foundation,” said Sons of Ben President Kenny Hanson. “We are just as equally excited to be a part of raising money for such a great cause, the Philadelphia Union Foundation."
Tickets starting at $35 are available through , by phone at 1-800-298-4200 or in person at the PPL Park box office. Designated Driver Tickets are available at $10. All ticket purchasers must be 21 or older to attend and must present a valid photo ID at the gate. Ticket purchasers during the first week of the on-sale will receive a free commemorative limited edition beer glass.
VIP Session tickets will kick off the festival from 2:00–3:00 p.m. with a special firkin tapping, VIP Parking, and the ability to talk to brewers and taste exclusive beers that will not be served in the general session. General Session will run from 3:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m. Both VIP and general session tickets will include a souvenir tasting glass.
Life wasn’t always easy for Raymon Gaddis and Andre Blake.
Professional soccer has always been a dream but getting here was half the battle.
Gaddis and Blake were born worlds apart, one hails from a small town in Jamaica while the other calls the American Midwest home. From the outside these may seem like opposite ends of the residential spectrum but dreams manifest themselves no matter the circumstances. But for these two being a professional soccer player was the only occupation they believed in.
As both players find themselves productive members of an American professional soccer team it would be understandable for them to think their jobs were done but this could not be further from the truth.
This sense of responsibility led both players to the Boys and Girls Club of Delaware on an overcast Wednesday evening to share their stories with a group of young Wilmington, Delaware children whose circumstances bear a striking resemblance to the player’s upbringing.
“Everyday that I play for the Philadelphia Union I don’t take it for granted and I feel a sense of responsibility to the community because I made it out of my circumstances,” Gaddis said during a recent interview
Most of the children in the crowd were members of Mike’s TEAM a mentoring program where volunteers from the surrounding area come once a week for an hour session where the volunteer helps a child with homework, academic practices, and life-skills. Many of the children come from low-income families and Mike’s TEAM provides them with a positive environment where they can focus on achieving their goals.
The organization has a three-fold mission statement that promotes the self-worth of youth, enables youths to make positive life choices, and finally strives to improve their lives, and communities.
A place like this oozes positivity, but reinforcement from those that have lived that life is what can make all the difference for these aspiring young minds.
Enter Raymon Gaddis and Andre Blake.
When Gaddis and Blake arrived at the event many of the children had a vague idea of who the Philadelphia Union were and what the club stands for. Like most young people the minute they heard professional athlete their ears perked up and they became fully invested in what the players had to say.
Andre Blake and the kids of the Wilmington Boys & Girls Club share a laugh during a meet and greet Wednesday
“To see successful, professional athletes and hear stories about the adversity they encountered as young people was very powerful for the Club’s youth. It was moving to see the kids understand that these players faced challenges similar to their own,” said Mike’s TEAM Executive Director Megan Kneisl-Faulkner.
Looking around the at the young, impressionable faces, many sat wide-eyed listening to the two players speak, for the kids it was a moment they won’t soon forget, but the same goes for both players.
“I feel like I can relate so much to these kids, and I hope that my message can stick with them whenever they are going through tough times or facing adversity. They can think back to today and what I have gone through to get here,” said Blake.
The key word from the entire day was adversity, and not simply how to deal with it, but how to overcome it. Both Ray and Andre used the word extensively in their discussions with the kids, because they understand the importance of succeeding through the hard times.
For them success isn’t necessarily all about becoming a professional athlete, it’s also about becoming a good person. Both players made sure to remind the kids that while it may have been their dream to be professional athletes, it’s not only about what you want to be, but the journey you take to get there.
The players stressed that this journey is going to be full of adversity, and sacrifices are going to have to be made. Ray described keeping his “eye on the prize” while some of his closest friends were making the wrong choices he had to remain stalwart in his mission.
Both players admitted it can be hard because often what others are doing around you is more “fun” then extra time in the weight room or a weekend study session, but these are what make you successful.
Success isn’t measured by the car you drive or the house you live in, true success is defined by the person you are, both players know that events like this are where they can truly articulate this message, and why they are so inclined to come to places like the Boys and Girls Club.
Ray and Andre were once the kids they spoke to, they grew up facing challenges on a daily basis that required them to make tough choices, but the right choices.
“My senior year of high school a group of guys that I hung with decided to rob a store, I told them it wasn’t right, and I literally walked the other way,” Gaddis recalled. “A couple of them got caught and I was grateful I chose to turn the other way. That’s a prime example of choices, and I always had ambitions of doing more.”
This type of experience has a profound impact on a human being, you look back in life and value the right choices you made because they are what make you into the person you are today. It’s also experiences like this that make Ray and Andre want to give back to the community.
They have seen people close to them make the wrong choices and let adversity define their lives.
It’s the mission of both players to communicate to all young people they come in contact with how to take that adversity and use it as motivation to do well in life.
A significant California trip where points are vital and a recent Jamaican national team call-up remain the focus of both players but these professional responsibilities don’t take away from the profounder parts of the job description.
“These guys are great! I think the Union is my new favorite team,” said Jaseem, a young Mike’s TEAM participant.
The children of the Boys and Girls Club of Delaware and Mike’s TEAM are the real teammates on this day.
- Written by Philadelphia Union digital media intern Doug Ammon
Last Saturday, the Philadelphia Union honored the family of tri-state soccer legend in Stan Koziol.
Koziol, affectionately known as “Stas” or “Stosh,” passed after a battle with leukemia.
He was 48.
He is survived by his wife Margret and his two children Nicole and Matthew.
Before the match against D.C. United, the Philadelphia Union Foundation presented a check to the Koziol family in the amount of $3,500. However, as a result of our fans and constituents, the Foundation raised an additional $1,500 and reissued a $5,000 check to the family.
A native of Clifton, N.J., Koziol attended Loyola (Md.) University where he was a two-time All American and still holds the program record for assists. Following college, he turned professional where he enjoyed an eight-year career playing in the old American Professional Soccer League (APSL) for the Maryland Bays (1988) and the Boston Bolts (1989-90). He played internationally for the Puerto Rican national team during qualifying for the 1994 FIFA World Cup and had a fantastic indoor career, playing for the Baltimore Blast (1989-90), Hershey Impact (1991-92) and Canton Invaders (1992-93).
Through the many stops of his illustrious career, Koziol made many friends along the way. Philadelphia Union CEO and managing partner Nick Sakiewicz considered Koziol one of his dearest – family even.
“Stas was like family and a dear friend whose tenacity on the soccer pitch followed him off the pitch and throughout his life,” Sakiewicz said. “It has been an honor to compete against him, play with him and, most importantly, to have known him for most of our lives starting with growing up on the streets of northern New Jersey playing soccer. Stas touched so many lives. We will all miss him immensely.”
On behalf of the Philadelphia Union Foundation and the entire Philadelphia Union family, we’d like to thank all those that contributed to support the family of our fallen friend.
A helping hand is sometimes all that is needed.
On Thursday April 10, humanitarians from all over the Philadelphia sports landscape and beyond convened for the first ever Eagles Care Summit.
Representatives from the Philadelphia Union, Eagles, Sixers, Flyers, and over 45 non-profit organizations from Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware came together at the Eagles training facility -- the NovaCare Complex, to share best practices used to strengthen community relationships.
Widely considered as a leading provider for the Chester community, the Philadelphia Union had representatives speaking throughout the Care Summit, including Executive Director of the Philadelphia Union Foundation Rick Jacobs and the Union's Director of Communications Aimee Cicero.
“There were opportunities for us and the other professional sports teams to talk about our current work in the community through the Foundation,” said Jacobs. “We were able to listen in on a bunch of 501 (c) (3) and view a presentation on how to build your 501 (c) (3) portfolio. I was really impressed.”
“We subscribe to a belief that there is no offseason to good citizenship,” said Philadelphia Eagles President Don Smolenski. Although there has been noticeable progress made within the surrounding communities, there also is more work to be done.
- To watch a video recap of the Eagles Care Summit, click here.
Philadelphia Eagles Community Relations Director Julie Hirshey added:
“The inspiration for the day was absolutely collaboration. It is no secret that working together by sharing knowledge and experiences, especially in the Delaware Valley region, will produce more of an everlasting impact on the community.
The majority of the Summit breakout sessions featured informative topics including fundraising, social media, board development, special events, marketing, ticket sales, player appearances and donation requests.
“The fact that the Eagles were able to collect two really significant groups that we connect to was a huge success,” said Jacobs.
“One group is the professional sports teams in the city. The ability to exchange ideas, listen to how they do their work each day was really impactful. To be able to meet other non-profits and 501 (c) (3) that want to be able to partner with the professional sports teams and figure out a way to get their message out was a huge success.”
The Eagles Care Summit provided vital information to help improve the already thriving Philadelphia Union Foundation. Since its inception in 2012, the Philadelphia Union Foundation has served as the heart and soul to the youth of Chester and the Greater Philadelphia Region. In 2013 alone, the Foundation has touched the lives of over 2,000 children in Chester. Using soccer as a conduit for change, the Foundation reinforces character values of integrity, effort, accountability and pride.
“Kudos to the Eagles for pulling this off. We were really pleased to participate to give information and be able to get information,” said Jacobs.
With the collaboration of the most successful programs in the Philadelphia region, expect big things coming from the Philadelphia Union Foundation in the upcoming years.
For more information on the Philadelphia Union Foundation and its mission, visit: www.philadelphiaunion.com/foundation