IMAGE: rookies marys center

United rookies begin community outreach with visit to Mary's Center

In their first official MLS community event, the 2017 D.C. United rookie class, including the club's newest Homegrown Player Ian Harkes and 2017 MLS SuperDraft picks Eric Klenofsky and Chris Odoi-Atsem, visited local non-profit Mary’s Center where they interacted with over 30 youth from the center’s Teen Program and led a healthy eating program.

Thursday’s program kicked off with a short Q&A session where the rookies discussed the importance of education, setting goals and maintaining a healthy and active lifestyle. 

“It’s great to get out in the community with D.C. United,” goalkeeper Eric Klenofsky said. “Being able to connect with youth and show them that if they work hard enough they can make it is rewarding. All of us [players] were just normal kids so it’s awesome to show them that there is a pathway to success if they work hard enough.”

With the help of the Mary’s Center Health Team, the children enjoyed a demonstration on healthy snacks led by the rookies. Harkes led a group in creating ants on a log (celery sticks with peanut butter and raisins on top), while Klenofsky and Odoi-Atsem taught students how to create their own fruit smoothies.

The visit marked the beginning of a newly-launched team initiative known as “Rookies in the Community,” which looks to integrate the first-year players as a group into the community through volunteer service projects.

“It’s very important to establish a positive relationship with the community,” defender Odoi-Atsem said. “Some of these kids came up and told me that they have been to a lot of games at RFK Stadium, which we appreciate immensely, so it’s awesome that we get to give back to them.”

For more information on D.C. United’s community programs and events, visit or follow on Twitter at @DCU_CR.