By: Jen Russon
Ask Howard Furman, a junior varsity coach at Coral Springs Charter School how many volunteers it takes to make a difference, and he’s likely to say it takes a village. The self-described semi-retired lawyer has coached the girls’ soccer team for more than a dozen seasons. This is his last one. It stands out as a banner year for the coach, who helped his school collect equipment for the Gonzo Soccer program.
“I can enthusiastically report that the grassroots project was, thanks to the support of the students, the coaches, the trainers, the administration and greater school community, more successful than anyone ever anticipated,” said Furman.
The collection effort by CSCS benefited youth in impoverished areas in the United States, Colombia, and Mexico. Furman personally made sure the items were shipped to those in need. The coach confirmed more than 100 students participated.
For their part, CSCS collected and sent 52 pairs of soccer cleats, 50 soccer balls, about 20 sets of shin guards and other needful things to the Gonzo Program. Furman said it was a costly challenge to get these gently used items through South American postal mail, but he managed.
Student volunteers came away from the charity drive with more than just service hours. The Gonzo Soccer project helped develop an appreciation for how hard daily life can be for people living in Quibdó, Colombia, and Tijuana and Juarez, Mexico. In these South American cities, some families must send their children out into the streets to panhandle; many have no running water. New uniforms, sweat shirts, used jerseys, shorts and socks help youth in these communities experience the welcome outlet of soccer.
Run by the former Olympic soccer player, Monica Gonzalez, Gonzo Soccer is co-managed by Alyse Lahue. Furman said it’s these two women who deserve praise, not him. He describes their organization as a way of bringing greater recognition to the accomplishments and capabilities of women in sports, and life in general.
The coach said he is also grateful to Malory Mitamura of Scoreboard Sports, Bill and Chad Purcell of Score Sports, and Stacey Tillberg of The Soccer Store – these small business owners and residents of Coral Springs and Boca Raton gave generously to the Gonzo Program, and helped CSCS achieve their donation goal; their generosity helps CSCS too.
Some of the soccer gear collected was given back to the charter school in order to help would-be athletes who can’t afford to play. For Gonzo Soccer, there are no definitive poverty lines that determine who gets aid and who doesn’t. Their mission statement implies that zip code shouldn’t matter if you truly need the help.
The Gonzo program is short for Monica Gonzalez’s last name. When the former Olympian realized her career as a pro athlete was over, she turned bitter disappointment into a personal mission. What began as soccer clinics in Chicago’s inner city has blossomed, over the past decade, into multiple Gonzo Academies that serve impoverished girls throughout the North and South Americas.
Gonzalez herself works with small groups, teaching both soccer and life skills, helping those who dropped out of school, return. In talking about her mission, Gonzales has said she and her staff have the power and the opportunity to open doors for girls who may feel trapped by poverty.
She said, “My career is over, but maybe 25 more are starting.”
To learn more about Gonzo Soccer, its philanthropic mission and how you can help, visit www.gonzosoccer.org.
Jen Russon is a freelance writer and English Language Arts teacher. She has published two novels to Amazon Kindle and lives in Coral Springs with her family.