Drive around the streets of Kansas City in the evenings or on the weekends and you will most certainly find soccer being played. Athletes of all ages and levels play the beautiful game while enjoying the benefits of teamwork, comradery and physical activity. With a new partnership between the Special Olympics and MLS WORKS, teams from around the league are partnering with local Special Olympics chapters to host exchange games in their stadiums in order to give athletes with intellectual disabilities a taste of what being a professional soccer player would be like.
On Saturday, Special Olympics Colorado traveled to Kansas City for an exchange game versus Special Olympics Kansas at Sporting Park. Both teams were given the first team experience – including a pregame meal, locker rooms complete with full team uniforms, a pre-game visit from midfielder Roger Espinoza and a special message from Manager Peter Vermes. Following the first team match, the teams were scheduled to take the field for warmups and be announced to the crowd before playing on the pitch in front of the supporters. This was before a series of thunderstorms delayed and ultimately cancelled the evening's games.
With Special Olympics Colorado traveling from Denver, both sides decided to meet on Sunday morning at the Sporting KC training facility located within Swope Soccer Village to play the much anticipated game. Both unified teams consisted of Special Olympians or “Athletes” and neuro-typical classmates or “Partners." Two 20-minute halves were played and the game was full of excitement with goals being scored throughout. Ultimately, Special Olympics Colorado traveled home with a 3-2 victory but not before both teams received commemorative medals and exchanged scarves.
In August, Special Olympics Kansas will travel to Colorado for the second half of the home-and-away series following the Sporting KC versus Colorado Rapids match on August 29. To learn more about the upcoming game or other Community events, please follow @VictoryKC on twitter or visit VictoryKC.org.
On Monday, the Boulevard Members Club was transformed into a fully functioning dental clinic. Tooth decay is the most common chronic illness facing children and for the second year, The Victory Project partnered with TeamSmile to provide uninsured children in our area access to free dental care and education. With the help of over 100 volunteers -- including local dentists, dental assistants, hygienists and 3rd/4th-year students from the UMKC School of Dentistry -- nearly 230 kids received care.
TeamSmile, an organization with its roots in Kansas City, provides everything from x-ray’s to dental procedures, including teeth pulling and fillings. Each child's visit is completed with a cleaning and education on the importance of good dental hygiene. The students attending Monday's event also got the chance to meet World Cup veteran Graham Zusi and former KC defender Nick Garcia, who acted as a distraction leading up to the time when they began their examinations.
Sporting Park is known for its infectious energy on game days. This past Saturday it was home to a different kind of energy when The Victory Project hosted its inaugural Yoga on the Pitch fundraiser.
Over 150 local yoga enthusiasts of all ages and levels joined Sporting KC players in an hour-long class in the middle of the pitch. Yoga was led by lululemon athletica ambassadors and Pop-Up Yoga KC with funds raised benefitting both The Victory Project and the Leukemia Lymphoma Society through Man of the Year Candidate Hunter Re.
Participants received a commemorative event tank top and were also able to get autographs from Sporting KC players in attendance, including Graham Zusi, Jacob Peterson, Krisztian Nemeth, Servando Carrasco and Bernardo Anor.
To learn more about The Victory Project and future fundraising events, please visit VictoryKC.org or follow us on Twitter.
In 2014, Sporting KC launched an initiative to engage the SWAG -- "Sporting Wives And Girlfriends" -- to have the group participate in philanthropic events around Kansas City to further the mission of The Victory Project in helping children thrive through life’s challenges.
Last Friday, the group partnered with the Shadow Buddies foundation to host a Pink Party at Children’s Mercy Hospital. The Pink Party was for girls diagnosed with Turner Syndrome (TS), a chromosomal disorder that affects one in 2,000 female births. There are approximately 70,000 women and girls affected with TS in the United States.
Every four month's Children’s Mercy hosts an all-day clinic for girls in the area diagnosed with TS and it was our job to pamper those in attendance. The morning was spent painting nails, doing hair, applying make-up and talking with the nearly 45 girls and their families. Each participant also left with a Shadow Buddy and a goodie bag filled with items any girl would love.
“All of the Sporting families have been tremendously blessed by the Kansas City community and this was a great opportunity for some of the wives and girlfriends to get together to give back to some well deserving young ladies," said Amanda Besler. "The pink party was a great event for girls of all ages to get together for a day of pampering in hopes to make their long day of doctor’s appointments a little easier."
The holiday season is upon us and this morning Sporting Kansas City and The Victory Project helped send off families participating in the annual Snowball Express holiday trip. Since 2006 the Snowball Express has provided families of fallen military heroes a chance to come together in Dallas, TX for an early holiday vacation. Today 31 children and their families from the region gathered at KCI to depart for their trip.
This is not your typical flight. Before boarding the plane families were welcomed into a special room within the airline terminal where they were greeted with applause, food, presents and special guests, including Sporting KC defender Kevin Ellis and our mascot Blue. Once the families board the airplane, fully decorated with holiday fare, they engage in a cotton ball “snowball” fight with flight attendants and are joined by families from Chicago and Minneapolis. The trip is four days but these families make memories that will last a lifetime.
To learn more about the Snowball Express please visit SnowballExpress.org.
Created with flickr slideshow.
Helping children thrive through life’s challenges is the mission of The Victory Project. This year -- with the help of our players, coaches, staff and fans -- The Victory Project was able to impact the lives of many children in the Kansas City area through various programs and special events.
During the month of December, The Victory Project will countdown some of their favorite moments from the year. Follow @VictoryKC on Twitter and @VictoryProjectKC on Instagram to relive the memorable events and experiences. And if you have a favorite moment, please share on social media or in the comments section below.
To learn more about The Victory Project, visit VictoryKC.org.
Last Friday, The Victory Project and TeamSmile partnered to provide 300 local elementary school children with free dental screenings and care at Sporting Park.
The TeamSmile program was created in Kansas City to provide underserved children with preventative care and education on the significance of good dental hygiene. The organization has partnered with nearly 25 professional sports teams around the country to host TeamSmile programs. Sporting KC is the first MLS team to join the initiative. Each full-day program brings together 100 volunteers including dentists, hygienists, dental assistants and more.
“If you start them early with a fun and good experience, it pays off for a lifetime,” said volunteer dentist Dr. Nevin Waters.
Check out this video below to learn more about the program:
— Empire State Bldg (@EmpireStateBldg) September 7, 2014
On Saturday afternoon, several Sporting KC players joined NAPA KC and The National Guard to host a barbecue and soccer clinic for local military families affected by injuries obtained during service for our country.
The idea for the gathering was originally proposed by Sporting KC defender Kevin Ellis, who has strong family ties to the United States military. Ellis was joined by teammates Matt Besler, Mikey Lopez, Andy Gruenebaum and Graham Zusi for a pick-up game of soccer with the families before enjoying barbecue and ice cream at the Swope Soccer Village. At the end of the event, each of the families received a signed soccer ball from the players.
"It takes a special person to do what they do and I can't put into words the respect I have for these guys," said Ellis, a Kansas City native who has made 14 MLS appearances for the club this season.
For the past three years, Sporting Kansas City and The Victory Project have teamed up with Braden’s Hope for Childhood Cancer to create a calendar featuring players and “Hope Heroes” – children who are battling or have survived cancer. On Tuesday, the 2015 calendar photo shoot was held at Sporting Park.
For the players involved, it was a rewarding experience they will never forget. One of these players was forward C.J. Sapong, who has been a part of the calendar each of the last two years.
“It honestly brightens up your day when you see a soul that has gone through so much that is able really to just shut off whatever mode they are probably in and engulf themselves in the moment. To be a part of that is really cool,” Sapong said.
The 2015 Braden’s Hope Calendar will be available in the fall and all proceeds go directly to raise awareness and funds for targeted treatments of childhood cancer.