Armahn Wallace

How Your Fingers Can Help Chester

All it takes is a few mouse-clicks.

Far more than just $50,000 was put up for grabs when Major League Soccer launched a Pepsi Refresh Project contest on August 20, with Alejandro Moreno serving as ambassador for Philadelphia Union’s goal of creating a natural grass, full-sized pitch for the newly formed Chester City United soccer organization.

‘Opportunity’ and ‘hope’ are words that come to mind. ‘Momentum’ is another. 

Philadelphia Union recently partnered with the Chester Upland School District to bring organized soccer back to Chester Middle and High School -- previously the only school district in Pennsylvania without a soccer program -- and then joined forces with various community organizations to form Chester City United, a soccer organization currently comprised of over 300 boys and girls.

[inline_node:287064]Now all that’s needed is a true home, a place young, aspiring soccer stars in Chester can be proud of right in their own community.

One small field currently supports the entire program, forcing the travel teams that will be in action for the first time this September to be labeled "away only" teams, meaning all of their games will be played outside of Chester. Thorough research has been conducted to identify the future location of a new field, with funding the only remaining hurdle.

“I really think it would open things up,” said Rob Smith Jr., Union VP of Soccer Development and Relations, who has been on loan to the Chester Upland School District for the last year helping to support the design and implementation of a district-wide soccer program at no cost to the District. “Right now we really get into patches of grass at places. Our field here at the middle school doesn’t even have qualified goals because they are cemented in and not mobile. So we’re just in open spaces. It would be great." 

If the Union beat out all 15 other MLS clubs, determined by total votes over a month-long period ending September 20, 1,500 children in the school district and Chester City United program would be able to play on a pristine new soccer pitch built just for them.

In a community that has experienced well-documented issues with poverty and crime, the long-term impact of a new field is incalculable for impressionable children in need of a positive social outlet.

[inline_node:287065]Patricia Trippley experienced firsthand how systemic, senseless violence can snap away the life and dreams of a child. On Easter Sunday, 2004, her son William H. Trippley III received a fatal gunshot wound to the head just a few blocks from where he lived in Chester. Less than 48 hours later he was taken off life support and pronounced dead.

As described on the William Trippley Youth Development Foundation’s website, “Trippley was an admirable son, a caring brother, a bright student, a great friend, an inspiring athlete, and a talented artist. He was a member of the esteemed FC Delco Club soccer team, as well as a state and Region I Olympic Development Program (ODP) player. Trippley received scholarships to the Shipley High School and Elizabethtown College to play soccer as well.”

And then it was all gone. Because he was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Instead of falling apart, a reaction that would’ve been understandable after such a terrible tragedy, Trippley decided to make a difference. The Union’s honorary captain for the first-ever match at PPL Park banded together with her deceased sons’ friends Neal Regino and Justin Pines, as well as Pines’ father David, and launched the first soccer camp in Chester during the summer of 2006. Their efforts soon led to the creation of the year-round program that exists today, which focuses on both academic excellence and athletic acceleration through soccer.

[inline_node:287068]The WTYDF is one of three organizations -- along with the Chambers Foundation and the Chester Department of Recreation -- that collectively make up Chester City United, an organization that is a tremendous accomplishment in and of itself. A new soccer field would be another, and Trippley knows it. That’s why she’s taken it upon herself to spread the word with vigor.

“We’re blasting everyone we know,” she told philadelphiaunion.com in a phone interview. “We’re telling friends, family, old college classmates; we’re just so excited about it. Every day I walk past (where the field would be built if the grant is won) on my daily walk. I’m a religious woman and I can just see the kids out there on the soccer field. We’re going to win.”

Does that sound like someone you want to disagree with?

Didn’t think so.

“Oh man, it would be fabulous for the kids and parents because now they’re starting to go to different tournaments and enjoy the game,” she continued. “They’re excited. The kids are excited, the coaches are excited, the parents and the community are excited.”

[inline_node:287066]In addition to spreading the word on foot, literally, Trippley posts regular Facebook messages, with one of her latest demonstrating the type of motivation only a woman who has been through her pain could possess. It read, “Please vote!!!!! It's all about the kids, not us. They need everything we can give them. I know we have had enough of our kids dying, please vote. My son loved the game of soccer and he didn't die in vain.”

No, he certainly didn’t.

Smith knows Trippley well, and he’s not at all surprised by her relentless tactics. He also knows how important of a boost a new soccer field would be to the community he’s immersed in on a daily basis.

“There is great excitement in the community,” Smith said this week, visibly excited about the possibility of a landmark moment in the development of soccer in Chester. “Pat Trippley has been very proactive. She has gotten flyers out, she has gotten emails out, she has made announcements in churches and has really just mobilized the community to move this thing forward.

"The school district is excited and willing to help us move things along, if we do win. All the players are on board. We have gone out through PAL, the Department of Recreation, Will Trippley and the Chambers Foundation. Everybody has been just getting the word out.”

[inline_node:287063]Moreno has more than done his part, too, choosing to be more than simply the face of the effort. His father has gotten in on the act as well, and the two have combined to generate support from an unlikely source: Venezuela. The Venezuelan National Team, in fact.

“I think that because I am behind it and I am supporting the project and representing the Philadelphia Union, he’s just taken it upon himself to not only spread the word, but get people he works with and people who work for him to vote,” said Moreno of his father’s support. “It’s expanded to the point where we are getting a good amount of votes from Venezuela. Whatever works. I have my friends from the national team putting it on their Facebook and Twitter accounts. We’re just trying to get as many votes as we can because we know it’s such an important project for the kids here in Chester.” 

If Chester City United is to reach its full potential and become the type of difference-making community initiative that it has the potential to be, the one inadequate field currently at the program’s disposal won’t be enough. Adding one full-sized field won’t be either, but again, it’s more progress. 

[inline_node:287067]“We’re commuting to Chester on a daily basis and we get to see firsthand some of the tough situations that people have to deal with," Moreno added. "So it is important to continue to improve this area and have this area grow in a positive manner. I think the grant will help a lot in the kids’ involvement and will help a lot to get them interested in soccer. In the end, we’re doing this for the kids and it’s for them that we're trying to push the project so hard.”

Would a soccer field in Chester be a panacea? Of course not. Neither is PPL Park, nor will any other single improvement. But it’d be another enormous step in the right direction for a community that so badly wants, and needs, to recover.

And it’s only a mouse-clicks away.

CLICK HERE to vote up to 25 times per day (limited by IP address) for the Union’s idea to bring a soccer field to Chester. Voting ends Monday, September 20 at 11:59 p.m. EDT.

After you vote, let us know how many times in the comments section below. On September 20, one randomly selected voter who comments will win an official lineup sheet signed by a Union player!

Related:

WATCH: Moreno describes the Union's Pepsi Refresh project

Union, MLS to Help Soccer in Chester

Smith to Head Youth Soccer Movement

Chester City United Project Needs Your Support