Soccer provides us with more than just a pastime or activity – when we participate in soccer we join a community that supports each other on and off the field. In my past 40 years in the soccer community I have seen countless scenarios of support, caring and compassion given to those of our community in need.
On Oct. 22, two thousand miles away from Seattle in Dallas (TX), a field was dedicated to a young professional soccer player, Federico “Freddy” Garcia, who died of unknown causes in his sleep at age 24. He was fit, healthy, and only a few months away from graduating from university while pursuing his professional soccer career. Because the autopsy report was inconclusive, his friends and family were left with many unanswered questions. Although his friends were unsure the cause of his death, they were sure that something must be done to honor Freddy.
“We should name a scholarship or a tree after him,” a friend said shortly after the funeral. The seed was planted, but his friends knew that a typical memorial was not original enough for someone so unique. Freddy was passionate about his family, friends, and his futbol, and he was happiest when he could combine all three.
“Why don’t we build him a community-based soccer field in the neighborhood he grew up in?!!” a friend suggested.
That suggestion came from best friend and teammate, Matt Moran. And with one off-hand comment, the Freddy Fund was born.
Shortly after, a committee of friends and family was formed, and a game plan was devised. A partnership was established with FC Dallas, the Dallas Independent School District, and America SCORES Dallas to help spread awareness and further engage the North Texas soccer community. Grassroots fundraising events that included a US vs. England world cup watching party, an auction, and a futsal tournament were created to begin to raise the necessary $150,000. Former NASL Dallas Tornado teammates of Freddy Garcia Sr., led by Bobby Moffat, rallied around the cause proving that teammates do become lifelong friends.
There were many other successes that helped push the momentum forward. The Freddy Fund was awarded a planning grant from the US Soccer Foundation through CHA Sports that afforded them free blueprints and renderings vital to creating a vision to potential donors. Then, a local family foundation donated a $15,000 matching grant to further employ friends and family to raise money. In October of 2010, Matt was nominated by FC Dallas as the MLS W.O.R.K.S. Community MVP for his work with the Freddy Fund and subsequently honored at halftime of the 2010 MLS Cup in Toronto. The Hunt Sports Group, owners of the FC Dallas franchise and the beautiful 17 field complex in Frisco (TX), offered their expertise and construction contacts on the project which saved the project thousands and ensured quality work.
Despite the many successes, the project took a few blows along the way. With no previous experience in development, the committee knew that raising $150,000 in one of the worse economic conditions in America’s history would certainly be a challenge. Almost a year into fundraising, they could not seem to get over the $100,000 mark and frustration began to set in. However, after many grant rejection letters, the team received one phone call that would strengthen their resolve. A teammate and good friend of Mr. Garcia, Mr. Scott Chaney, offered to donate the difference left in the fundraising, thus putting the bulldozer wheels in motion.
A week before the 2nd anniversary of Freddy’s passing, Matt and his teammates opened up the Federico “Freddy” Garcia Jr. Field with a dedication ceremony on October 22nd in Dallas, Texas. Festivities included a youth clinic for 150 kids hosted by FC Dallas, speeches from the Garcia family and the Dallas Mayor Pro Tempore, and hours of pick-up games played with a mariachi band and live deejay in the background.
I spoke to Matt about the dedication ceremony and he said, “To be able to see and smell the fruits of our labor is an incredible feeling. I have wanted nothing more than to see Freddy’s legacy continue in his neighborhood and I feel that has been accomplished.”
Matt Moran joined our staff in September and we are thrilled to have him – a skilled player, community champion and young professional – on board. Our staff is made up of people who get what being in the soccer community is all about and work each day to achieve our mission of fostering the physical, mental and emotional growth and development of the State of Washington’s youth through the sport of soccer at all levels of age and competition.
Matt’s story with the Freddy Fund is just one example of how the people in our community are reaching out beyond their office work, beyond the pitch and making a difference in our community at large. The beautiful game makes a beautiful community.