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
On Thursday April 3, the Philadelphia Union partnered with the Chester Business Association, Chester City's Workforce Development Office, and the Chester Education Foundation to lead mock interviews with students of Chester High School and the Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (S.T.E.M.) Academy.
The workshop was designed to help sharpen the interview skills of the graduating senior class and to provide firsthand advice on resume-building and the job application process.
Over 200 students were invited to the Chester High School library to participate in mock interviews and discussions focused on enhancing their competence and comfort while searching for a job. Students sat down with representatives from the Union and other local businesses and were interviewed one-on-one to simulate the actual interview process. The interviews lasted ten minutes, and were immediately followed by a feedback session.
The interviewer worked with the student to highlight areas of strength during the interview as well as aspects where the student could improve or expand on their answers in subsequent interviews. This review period also allowed the students to ask questions of the interviewer related to the interview process and their own career paths.
The day also consisted of a work readiness presentation, where students attended a speech that included advice on how to enhance their marketability. They were able to ask questions about the best way to present themselves during an interview, and to inquire about how to start the job process itself. This was followed by a resume help session, where professionals in the community helped each student create, update, and customize their resumes.
“This is such a valuable opportunity for students and interviewers alike. The students from Chester High School and surrounding schools entered slightly nervous, but very eager to participate,” said Leah Moore, Philadelphia Union's Manager of Business Development and Foundation with the Philadelphia Union. “The interviewers had a few minutes to really simulate the interview process. The segment directly following the mock interview provided students with the opportunity to immediately review their experience and also allowed the interviewers to discuss their reactions. The interview process is challenging, but with a little practice and mentorship, it becomes a lot less daunting. Overall, this program established a platform for growth in the important and challenging professional development arena. ”
The workshop was a resounding success. This was an excellent opportunity for students to prepare themselves for the future, while the volunteers for the Philadelphia Union were able to give back to the Chester community by sharing their experiences and advice.
With your help, we raised in excess of $120,000 in net proceeds from our 2nd Annual Cocktails and Cleats celebration on March 12th. These contributions will be instrumental in advancing our mission of providing opportunities for children through the power of relationships and transformation.
A change in the areas of: education, community, health and recreation.
Thanks to your support, we will be able to continue to provide these programs and opportunities to the youth of Chester and the Greater Philadelphia Region. Character development, enhanced academic performance and nutritional education remain the focal points of the Foundation’s programming initiatives. Your contributions will serve to ensure that these areas continue to be both impactful and inclusive of the children we serve.
The evening also provided an opportunity to highlight the good work of two friends and soccer partners in our community. We were honored to recognize and celebrate the outstanding achievements of legendary coach and US National Team Player, Pennsylvania’s favorite son, Walter Bahr and Philadelphia’s own Bob Kozlowski; teacher, coach, administrator and loyal volunteer. These two men underscore the idea that, together, we can Be The Change!
Your contribution will allow the Foundation to continue to promote the character values of integrity, effort, accountability and pride. Thanks again for your willingness to change a generation, one relationship at a time.
On Friday, Jan. 31, the Philadelphia Union Foundation hosted a PowerPoint presentation to students at YSC Academy to discuss the importance of giving back to the community. The presentation primarily focused on educating youth and promoting values such as integrity, trust, respect and accountability.
The event addressed how soccer can be used as a tool for social change. Rick Jacobs, the keynote speaker and executive director of the Philadelphia Union Foundation, discussed how students now have a chance to change their community by giving back in their own unique way.
Students here have the opportunity to get something from the game and have the chance to give back. “The plan is to go beyond the soccer fields and give back, because that’s what it’s all about,” said Jacobs.
- Click the graphic for more information on Cocktails and Cleats gala
Many athletes are living examples that excellence is a reinforcing value for success. Jacobs went on to connect the game of soccer to real life. “In a game, you are constantly thinking about the next play. Where am I taking this touch? Where is my next pass going? Where can I change the game?” said Jacobs. “In life, your vision should always be up. Look to see where you can make the greatest impact -- where can I make a change?”
While the Foundation is still young, it has already completed many projects. As part of its efforts to give back to the community, the presentation reiterated the critical need for change in Chester. Jacobs encouraged students to think about what they can do to make a difference in Chester.
“You can’t do 1,000 things, but one small thing can make a difference,” said Jacobs who believes that giving back and helping out within the community is something that everyone should be involved with.
The Foundation presentation not only focused on giving back, but also becoming a well-rounded person. It aims to provide a positive impact in character development by developing athletes into men that can connect the skills learned on the field to real life. “It is important to complete the circle,” said Jacobs. “Not only developing as an athlete, but as a person and player.”
The YSC Academy students understand that giving as much on the field as off the field is the ultimate success in life. The off field wins can be seen through volunteering with charitable outreach programs and community initiatives. The students already came up with their own ideas such as Breast Cancer Awareness walks, soccer tennis tournament and AIDS and HIV fundraisers.
After the warming applause, the students broke into groups to continue working on their community projects that will be used in conjunction with the Foundation over the new few months.
Perhaps the one great thing of note: throughout the hour long presentation, Jacobs routinely came back to one phrase: “You have to willingly sacrifice.”
He describes those who want the quick rewards are those who do not willingly sacrifice. To Jacobs, selfless sacrifice reap rewards down the road that becomes apart of you -- and it's this notion that can become the cornerstone for success.
For more on Philadelphia Union Foundation and its mission, visit: http://www.philadelphiaunion.com/foundation
Union intern Jaclyn Cammarata authored this report
Comcast SportsNet’s Amy Fadool will emcee annual marquee event honoring Pennsylvania soccer’s “favorite sons” Bahr and Kozlowski
The Philadelphia Union Foundation will hold its annual “Cocktails & Cleats” gala on Wednesday, March 12 at 6:00 p.m. at Vie in Philadelphia. The gala will feature the entire Philadelphia Union team and Technical Staff and will be emceed by Comcast SportsNet anchor and “State of the Union” host Amy Fadool.
The Philadelphia Union Foundation is dedicated to the young people of Chester and the Greater Philadelphia Region. Character development, enhanced academic performance and nutritional education remain the focal point of the Foundation’s programming initiatives. Using soccer as a conduit for change, the Foundation reinforces character values of integrity, effort, accountability and pride.
Last year’s Cocktails and Cleats celebration was extremely successful, netting over $50,000 to benefit the Philadelphia Union Foundation.
The night will also honor Philadelphia’s own Walter Bahr with a lifetime achievement award, while Bob Kozlowski will receive the Foundation’s “Building Blocks” Award. The “Building Blocks” award recognizes an individual who has shown selfless dedication to the Foundation’s four Building Blocks: Community, Health, Education & Recreation in the communities of Chester and the Greater Philadelphia Region.
“The Greater Philadelphia region has such a long history with so many legendary soccer people like Walter and Bob,” said Philadelphia Union CEO & Operating Partner Nick Sakiewicz. “The Philadelphia Union and The Philadelphia Foundation are fortunate to be able to honor two men who have given so much to our city, our state, our country and to the game that we all love. We feel privileged that both Walter and Bob are allowing us to share their wonderful achievements on and off the pitch at our second annual Cocktails & Cleats celebration.”
Bahr is considered to be one of the greatest soccer players that the United States has ever produced. The long-time captain of the U.S. Men’s National Team and a member of the 1948 Olympic team, Bahr led the 1950 World Cup squad to a historic 1-0 defeat of England, which is considered to be one of the biggest upsets in sports history. After retiring from an illustrious playing career, Bahr went on to coach the men’s soccer teams at Temple and Penn State Universities, leading the Nittany Lions to 14 NCAA Tournaments.
“The Philadelphia Union Foundation is pleased to honor Bob Kozlowski as recipient of our "Building Blocks" Award and to recognize Walter Bahr for his distinguished service to soccer,” said Philadelphia Union Foundation Chairman Mike Curry. “The Foundation "provides opportunities for children through the power of relationships to offer transformational change.” Bob and Walter are wonderful examples of how generosity and commitment to helping others provides the fuel for transformational change. Their impact to soccer and our community are worthy of recognition and we are grateful for the opportunity to celebrate their contributions.
Kozlowski has been very active in the Pennsylvania soccer community for over 40 years as a dedicated teacher, volunteer and community leader. As president of the Southeastern Pennsylvania Soccer Hall of Fame, Kozlowski is the originator and director of the organization’s “Coats for Chester” campaign, which has collected and distributed thousands of coats in the city over the past three years. He was the recipient of the Philadelphia Union’s Hometown Hero award in 2012 for his work in the community, and was inducted into the Southeastern Pennsylvania Soccer Hall of Fame. His tireless efforts have made a lasting impact on a new generation of soccer enthusiasts.
For more information on how to become a sponsor or to register for this year’s event, please visit http://www.philadelphiaunion.com/foundation/cocktailscleats/sponsors
ABOUT KEYSTONE SPORTS AND ENTERTAINMENT LLC
Keystone Sports and Entertainment, LLC, is the ownership group of Philadelphia Union led by CEO & Operating Partner Nick Sakiewicz. The group launched the Philadelphia Union's inaugural season on March 25, 2010 and opened PPL Park on June 27, 2010. Since joining the MLS, the Union have faced off against European powers Celtic FC, Manchester United, Everton, Real Madrid, Schalke 04, Aston Villa, Stoke City FC and Mexican powers Chivas de Guadalajara and Pumas UNAM. PPL Park holds approximately 18,500 seats and has hosted various events such as the 2012 MLS All-Star Game, USWNT vs. China, 2012 Army/Navy Soccer Cup, 2012 and 2013 Big East Men’s Soccer Championship and 2011 and 2012 USA Sevens Collegiate Rugby Championships and the 2013 Men’s College Cup. For more information about Philadelphia Union, visit www.philadelphiaunion.com
ABOUT THE PHILADELPHIA UNION FOUNDATION
The Philadelphia Union Foundation is a registered 501c3 in the vision of Philadelphia Union, a professional soccer team that participates in Major League Soccer (MLS). The Foundation provides opportunities for children through the power of relationships to offer transformational change in the areas of education, community, health and recreation. It is our aim to have a positive impact on these children with respect to character development, academic performance and physical well being. Philadelphia Union Foundation will use soccer as a conduit for change by reinforcing character values of integrity, effort, accountability and pride. For more information on The Philadelphia Union Foundation, visit www.philadelphiaunion.com/foundation.
Total jackpot of $17,230 raised in first-ever 50/50 Raffle at PPL Park
Chester, Pa. (May 7, 2013) – Philadelphia Union successfully launched the first-ever 50/50 Raffle at PPL Park during Saturday’s match against the Seattle Sounders, earning a total jackpot of $17,230. The earnings were split evenly between the Philadelphia Union Foundation and randomly-selected winner Aleksey Gorshenin of Lansdale, Pa., who was attending his first Union game at PPL Park
“We are thrilled with the success of our opening raffle and look forward to its continued growth on game days,” said Philadelphia Union CEO & Operating Partner Nick Sakiewicz. “Philadelphia Union are deeply committed to providing fans with a world-class experience at PPL Park and are proud that 50/50 raffles help achieve that goal while benefitting the Philadelphia Union Foundation.”
Used by teams in the NFL, NBA, MLB and NHL, the 50/50 Raffle is a fundraising contest that allows the money used to purchase raffle tickets to be evenly split between a randomly-selected winner and the participating organization. Fans at PPL Park can now purchase raffle tickets from kiosks located at three stadium gates as well as Toyota Plaza or through several handheld devices carried by Union employees. The jackpot winner and the Philadelphia Union Foundation will split the earnings. Tickets are sold for three for $5, 10 for $10 or 40 for $20.
The Philadelphia Union Foundation is a registered 501c3 in the vision of the Philadelphia Union. According to its mission statement, the Philadelphia Union Foundation “provides opportunities for children through the power of relationships to offer transformational change in the areas of education, community, health and recreation.”
Since its inception in 2012, the Philadelphia Union Foundation has teamed up with local and national organizations in various measures to benefit the City of Chester, including a playground construction, 8v8 small-sized field, local trash pickups, soccer clinics and other charity events. Additionally, the Foundation has raised over $50,000 in the past two years from the River Cup, an annual charity match at PPL Park between members of the Union’s supporter group, Sons of Ben, and the Union front office. Additionally, the PUF held their inaugural “Cocktails and Cleats” gala in March of this year, netting over $50,000 in funds raised to benefit its four Building Blocks: Life Skills Programming, Safe Fields, Good Health Through Proper Nutrition, and Playing Soccer while Having Fun.
The Philadelphia Union Foundation held its Inaugural “Cocktails and Cleats” Celebration on Wednesday, March 13 at the Hyatt at the Bellevue in Philadelphia, PA, where the Foundation netted over $50,000 to benefit its Building Blocks. The sold-out event included both a live and silent auction to benefit the non-profit organization. The Foundation’s goal is to positively impact local children, specifically with regard to their character development, academic performance and physical well-being. The Foundation mission is to provide opportunities for children through the power of relationships to offer transformational change in the areas of education, community, health and recreation.
Items sold included autographed Philadelphia Union memorabilia, paintings by local artists, an assortment of fine jewelry and select aged wines. The event also hosted a Red and Yellow card game, in which participants had the opportunity to win two all-access passes to a Philadelphia Union home game.
The entire Union team and technical staff attended the gala along with over 400 guests. The Foundation also took advantage of the event to honor Patricia (Pat) Trippley- Demiranda, the Co-Founder and Chairperson of the William Trippley Youth Development Foundation (WTYDF) and Chester City United, for the work she has done in the community in recent years. She received the organization’s “Building Blocks Award” as an individual who represents a key component of the Foundation’s “Building Relationships and Changing a Generation” attitude. Radio personality and comedian Joe Conklin also provided entertainment for the evening as well as supporting the live auction as guess auctioneer.
The Foundation and the Philadelphia Union would like to thank all who attended and made the night such a success.
Written by Grace Flynn.
Please allow me to both congratulate and thank you for partnering with Philadelphia Union and The Philadelphia Union Foundation as we celebrated our Inaugural Cocktails & Cleats event last week at the Hyatt at the Bellevue, Philadelphia. Through your generosity the net proceeds for the event were in excess of $50,000. This will allow us to continue to support our four foundation building blocks within Chester and the Greater Philadelphia Region.
A sold out crowd of over 400 friends, that included the entire Philadelphia Union team, technical staff, club ownership, foundation board members and the players and families of Chester City United, gathered together with city, county and state officials and were treated to a wonderful evening of community, that continues to spearhead our efforts of “Building Relationships & Changing A Generation.”
A cocktail reception, dinner-buffet and live auction which was sprinkled with the comedy of Joe Conklin was a huge success. Some of the live and silent auction highlights included, a Pele Signed Print, Full access PPL Park experience including dinner for 12 at Alla Spina, golf for two at Merion Golf Club on Media Day prior to the US Open, signed Union jerseys and a Philadelphia Sports Executive Power Lunch at Osteria for (2) with CEO & Operating Partner of Philadelphia Union, Nick Sakiewicz, Peter Luukko, Comcast Spectacor, Rueben Amaro, Phillies and Don Smolenski, Eagles.
The foundation was proud to have Pat Trippley-Demiranda honored as the first recipient of the “Building Blocks Award” for her service to the children of Chester through her selfless dedication that has seen her launch The Will Trippley Youth Development Foundation and Chester City United, which currently serves over 400 young boys and girls.
This chance to thank our partners that have shared in our beginning and welcome new partners to our work galvanizes us as we look forward to continuing the good work that is so vital to our youth. We stand on your shoulders and say thank you for walking this walk with us.