Axel Colin, Fernando Rivera, Junior (Luis) Lopez and Carlos Aguilar had flown cross country, participated in two camp days at PPL Park, explored Philadelphia with the likes of Union players Danny Cruz and Matt Kassel, trained privately with Union midfielder Michael Lahoud and goalie Chris Konopka and attended a Union home game.
A whirlwind weekend tour for anyone -- let alone four youngsters under the age of 15.
Oh, it was also the first time they flew, or even left the confines around their homes in Central Los Angeles.
But a partnership that was born between Lahoud, the Philadelphia Union Foundation and the Bresee Foundation led to what one kid stated dubbed simply as “The best five days of my life.”
All expenses of this once in a lifetime trip were covered. The four boys won a contest in which their skills, grades, and behavior were all taken into account.
The crew that came from the Rampart District of Los Angeles was also paired up with Chester City United players in order to make friends on the opposite coast – but all living in similar situations.
Anthony Cummings, Bresee’s lead teacher whom acted as chaperones for the four had similar feelings.
“Seeing them run around the pitch with the players, eating dinner with Mike Lahoud and seeing the sites of the city of Philadelphia will forever live in their hearts,” said Cummings. “ I know without a doubt that this trip has had a profound effect on their character and integrity – not only as soccer players but as young boys growing into men!"
None of this would have been possible without the work and passion of Lahoud. While playing for Chivas USA, Michael volunteered his time with the Bresee Foundation and created a relationship with these kids.
Joining the kids for almost the entire extent of their stay, Michael made the experience truly extraordinary.
"Yeah, it's an afterschool program in East LA, but they go beyond just being another afterschool program," said Lahoud, who orginally first met the Bresee students while appearing at a soccer camp in California along D.C. United defender James Riley. "I instantly created a huge connection with these kids and they mean a lot to me and Anthony [Cummings] and I basically woke up one day and started thinking about a way to connect the kids from Bresee to the kids in here in Chester. I figured this would be an amazing bridging of the gap between the two communities."
And it has all the makings of becoming one as next year, select youngsters from Chester City United will travel to Los Angeles to share a similar experience hosted by the Bresee Foundation.
From all of us that were involved as Philadelphia Union staff, we want to thank Michael, the Bresee Foundation, and all that made this trip and experience possible. Most importantly, we would like to thank Axel, Fernando, Junior, and Carlos. We wish them the best of luck and have full faith in them moving forward.