Make your way to Twitter and Instagram and search the hashtag #MoreThanSoccer if you want to read about feel-good stories. They’re stories of communities rallying together, celebrating achievements beyond soccer, and leadership skills. That’s because soccer is so much more than the 90 minutes played on the pitch.
It would be so easy to only be concerned with the club, the players, and the sport, but with Orlando’s already inclusive community it doesn’t seem right that a soccer club wouldn’t be involved. So, what have Orlando City Soccer Club and the Orlando Pride done to make us feel even more like a tight-knit community?
You’ll see on social media that members of the team will regularly head to hospitals to say hello to children, sign autographs and take pictures. Usually it’s a handful of Orlando City or Pride players who make their way and share about it not only on the club social media but on their personal pages as well.
In late May, the club received word that a young, local goalkeeper was admitted at Arnold Palmer Children’s Hospital and rather than send a handful of players, the teams showed up en masse. They say you should never meet your heroes, but for a teenager in the fight of their life, the local heroes came through to inspire, uplift, and support this young kid.
The Orlando City Foundation
Kay Rawlins, co-founder of Orlando City, serves as the president of the club’s foundation. The club wasn’t enough for her, she wanted to make an impact on the community. With community at the root of everything for Kay, she not only serves as the head of the foundation but also serves as a member of the Community Leadership Council for the Howard Phillips Center, and as a board member for the Boys & Girls Club of Central Florida, Cannonball Kids’ cancer, and the Central Florida Commission on Homelessness. You can’t begin to doubt that she wants to see the children of our local communities succeed.
The Orlando City Foundation aims to raise money to serve the community. It holds numerous events throughout the year to raise funds. The Soccer Ball (typically held in February) allows attendees the opportunity to dine and mingle with players, coaches, executives, and more. The Play Bingo Ladies Luncheon allows women a fun time to decorate themed tables, win fabulous prizes, share lunch with friends, and raise money for the foundation. Another huge event is the Foot Golf tournament, which brings players, coaches, and supporters together for a fun golf game — sans clubs.
Where do the funds go? The mission of the foundation is to create safe places for the community’s youth to play soccer. With limited space availability, the foundation has found success in what it calls mini-pitches, converting tennis courts at community centers in underserved areas. Not only does the foundation work to install these mini-pitches, but it also offers free programs that teach soccer skills and healthy nutrition, where players stop by regularly to encourage children to keep up with the healthy habits they’re learning. In conjunction with inspiring healthy lives, the foundation helps plant community gardens in low-income neighborhoods, so the community can have access to fresh produce in what can otherwise be food deserts.
In addition to what the foundation itself does to support the community, it also offers small grant opportunities. The Soccer Micro Grants (typically awarded between $500-$1,000) are offered to eligible, tax-exempt organizations in surrounding counties to help further soccer and bring programs to underserved areas. Their Garden Grants aim to help plant additional gardens at schools and in areas where residents may not have access to fresh, healthy foods.
If your school or community center is interested applying for a grant, you can contact the foundation at firstname.lastname@example.org
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Missed our #KickingItBack posts? We’ve got you covered! For week 10, our players learned the all important lesson of awareness. Awareness of your surroundings, awareness of the foods you eat, and awareness of the real world. It’s a lot to take in, we know, but we’re in awe of the impact these lessons are making on the kiddos and we are so thankful to ALL of you who make this happen!
Three years ago, the city of Orlando was rocked and changed forever when a gunman walked into a local club, Pulse, and took the lives of 49 innocent people. It was a tragic event that took an already close-knit community and made it stronger. The community saw lines wrapped around city blocks to donate blood, food donations to people in line to donate, and accommodations being offered for pets, travel expenses and more.
Club officials debated whether they should even hold the game that was approaching following the shooting, but the community said absolutely they should. Supporters showed up in droves waving rainbow flags, teams wore Orlando United shirts, and everyone came out to support friends, family, first responders, and anyone who was touched by the horrific event. The league allowed game play to stop in the 49th minute of the match to honor the 49 victims with a moment of silence.
During that match 49 seats had been reserved with rainbow-colored balloons and thus an idea was born. Exploria Stadium features 49 rainbow-colored seats in Section 12 that will forever serve as a memorial to the victims of that night. This show of support for the community goes so far beyond the sport of soccer and makes me proud to call the stadium home.
Last year, Orlando City and the Orlando Pride launched the Pride in Our City campaign to honor the victims of the shooting. Percentages of special merchandise and ticket sales were donated to local organizations supporting the LGBTQ community. Additionally, the club opens the stadium so that fans can come see the memorial and share in a moment of silence to honor the 49.
The club always has a way of making the fans feel loved, from thanking them at the end of each match, signing autographs and taking selfies, to giving traveling fans the jerseys off their backs. This club is special. This city is special. What moments have the club inspired in you to show that it’s more than soccer?