Patty Gallagher was never a huge soccer fan. For most of her life, she was a field hockey player and she left the soccer to her husband, Pat, who was a soccer goalie all the way through college.
Everything changed for Gallagher, who is from Sicklerville, N.J., when her son Joe, age 13, and daughter Libby, age 9, started to play soccer for themselves.
“Both of my kids have been playing soccer since they were 4 years old,” said Gallagher. “My oldest, Joe, is obsessed with the Union. He has enough jerseys that he could wear a different one everyday for two weeks.”
Joe, who only recently turned 13, was diagnosed with autism at the age of 2. His mother said that soccer was the first team sport he was able to play and it made him feel included and as a fully functional member of the team.
Both kids now play soccer for their local youth team, Highland youth soccer club, helping them to play soccer all year-round.
“We’re the biggest soccer fans now,” Gallagher said. “We are on the soccer fields every night of the week, either for practice or a game. We do homework on the fields and sometimes we even eat dinner on the fields as well.”
Now the “ultimate soccer mom” as she calls herself, Gallagher and her kids have been to multiple Union games and have loved it every time.
“We love going to the games, we have such a great time,” said Gallagher. “The team does so much for the community. Soccer has been a big part in inspiring my kids and its great to know that there is a future for them if they want to play soccer professionally.”
While they have been to Union games and other Union related events, Gallagher says one of their greatest memories came a few months ago when they got to meet Maurice Edu at a Philadelphia 76ers game.
“Joe follows Edu on Instagram and saw that he was at the Sixers' game and was only siting a few rows in front of us,” Gallagher said. “Joe went up to him and got to talk to him a little bit and got his Union jacket that he wears everywhere signed.”
Their relationship with the Union doesn’t end there. For his 13th birthday, Joe requested that his bedroom, currently decked out in Philadelphia Phillies colors, be re-decorated with a Philadelphia Union style theme.
As for their favorite players, Libby enjoys watching Sebastien Le Toux score goals and run all over the field and Joe likes Edu and his standout defense.
Gallagher and her family were selected to win two tickets to the October 25 game against Orlando City and a VIP experience including watching warm-ups from field level and participating in post-game autographs on behalf of AAA.
This story is part of AAA’s “Start Your Journey” campaign, an effort – in partnership with the Union – to help celebrate families’ journeys in support of their young athletes…the long road trips, all-weekend tournaments, and the special bonds that are formed from the extensive time on the road. Each month, the Philadelphia Union and AAA will select an individual within its soccer network to develop a feature story on their path to success in association with the game of soccer. Additionally, fans are encouraged to share their own stories via social media using #ShareYourJourney.