Feature: United for D.C.

The Club: D.C. United. Its Mission: Win championships, and serve the community. United for D.C. helps make this goal a reality. United for D.C., the charitable arm of D.C. United, aims to champion educational, health and recreational programs and events that serve disadvantaged youth of the greater Washington, D.C. by engaging the resources and skills of D.C. United and our community. Founded in 2002, United for D.C. is 50(1)3 organization committed to supporting programs and organizations that aim to accomplish the same mission. Over the years, the organization has donated thousands of volunteer hours and hundreds of thousands of dollars while touching the lives of countless children.

United for D.C. is comprised of three subgroups—United Soccer Club, United Reads, and Kicks for Kids. Each separate facet help inner-city youth learn valuable life lessons and experiences either through sport or the support of D.C. United. United Soccer Club (USC) provides disadvantaged youth of D.C. an opportunity to learn and play soccer—something that was not possible before USC began. By request, USC began its involvement in the community, reaching out to local schools to fill the void of athletic opportunities. Helping to combat childhood obesity, USC currently operates at 12 sites consisting of first grade through fifth grade as well as two middle school teams. Each team trains regularly through the year and enjoys formal competition.

United Soccer Club’s mission is to teach the joy of the game, basic soccer skills, character building traits and healthy life skills. The seasons, broken up in to Fall and Spring, provide opportunities for the youth involved to see D.C. United’s First Team play.

“United Soccer Club provides these kids the opportunity to get off the street,” says D.C. United Director of Community Relations Aprile Pritchet. “It’s after school and that’s typically when they get into the most trouble between the time they get out of school and the time their parents get home from work. So it gives them just another outlet to play and have fun and be kids.”

USC has enjoyed local as well as nation success. In 2010 and 2011, United Soccer Club participated in First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Lets Move” campaign, aimed at eliminating childhood obesity. Also, United for DC is U.S. Soccer Foundation’s Soccer for Success Grantee and Flagship Program.

The second part of United for D.C. is United Reads—a program that supports childhood literacy through partnerships with elementary schools in the greater Washington area.

Originally established in 2006, United Reads launched at Payne Elementary School, the closest school to RFK. After noted success, United Reads looked to spread its message of loving to read and keep a healthy mind and body to other schools around Washington.

Over the years, D.C. United players, coaching staff, front office staff and volunteers have dedicated their time to promoting this message. Through assemblies and in-class visits, D.C. United and Untied Reads have made a difference in encouraging D.C. youth to learn to love to read, as well as balance reading with a healthy, active lifestyle. With over 1,500 students from six different schools, Untied Reads donates over 10,000 books a year.

“I think its cool for the kids to hear from a professional athlete about the importance of reading as well as from D.C. untied employees,” said Pritchet. “It gives the kids a new outlook on different opportunities that they might have when they grow up.”

The third organization within United for D.C. is Kicks for Kids—a program that provides a game day experience for disadvantaged youth in the greater Washington area through various nonprofits with the goal of making this day one that no kid will soon forget, each participant attends the game free of charge, has access to post-game autographs, vouchers for food and drink, and t-shirts.

“I think it’s a really cool program because the kids get the full game day experience,” said Prichet. “Not only do they get to attend the game, they get essentially front row seats. They sit down as close to the field as they can get.”

Each year, approximately 7,5000 kids, families and organization chaperones come to a D.C. United game through Kicks for Kids from all wards of Washington D.C. Several non-profit organizations help make this day a success by bringing their groups out to RFK for an unforgettable experience. Some of the beneficiaries include: the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Washington, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Children’s Inn at NIH, DC SCORES, the Latin American Youth Center and Children’s National Medical Center.

“I think it’s important to have the kids come to the games and have them watch their role models play, have fun and get good results,” said Pritchet.