By JOE JAROSZ
May 28, 2014
KANSAS CITY, Missouri – Are you ready for some football Northeast Kansas City?
Well, not the American version, but the European style, better known to us as soccer.
With the help of community activist Nancy Simons, the Northeast will soon be the recipient of the Soccer for Success grant, a free after school program that uses soccer as a tool to address children’s health issues and juvenile delinquency, while promoting healthy lifestyles in urban communities. Simons said the program will begin in the fall of 2014. The U.S. Soccer Foundation partners with communities across the country to host sites to provide resources and activities for children for an entire school year.
Simons said she recently applied for the grant with Major League Soccer. In April, representatives for the MLS came to Kansas City to speak with Simons. She also gave them a tour of the Northeast area, her hometown.
“I graduated from Northeast High School and was raised in the Northeast area,” Simons said. “I saw how much this grant could help a lot of people in this area.”
When the representatives came to Kansas City, they told Simons she, and the Norheast, had received the grant. With the grant, at least 500 children in the Northeast area will be affected; receiving soccer balls, shin guards and jersey. The grant will also pay for a site coordinator and the revitalization of three area soccer fields.
“I never dreamt it would be that big,” Simons said. “I have written a lot of grants in my life and I always try to do the best I can and provide the most information.”
There are several components of the Soccer for Success program. First, the children involved participate in physical activity for 90 minute, three days a week. Staff teach the children about nutrition and the importance of healthy living. The same staff also serve as mentors to the children.
Simons said a dollar amount has not been determined yet because the foundation needs to determine how much everything will cost.
In the past, Simons has written grants to improve the Police Athletic League center. She keeps writing grants to help the area’s youth because she believes parts of the Northeast have lost its “community aspect.” She added with more activities like soccer, parents will, hopefully, come together and families will become more involved in the community, again.
“My vision is sports gets them into wanting to be on a team but the outcome is to finish high school and go onto college and do something positive with their lives,” Simons said. “I’m like a grandma to the children in the Northeast and Eastside areas. I believe with different events we’ll see more families come out and they can communicate with one another about other events in the community and learn about other resources to help the children.”
Simons said because of the recent success of Sporting KC, Kansas City’s MLS team, and the growing Hispanic population in the Northeast, she thought the grant would be beneficial to the area. It’s also an inexpensive sport to play, she added.
“I’m very excited because I believe this will lead to other grants from the MLS,” Simons said. “I’m just one woman in the Northeast who cares about kids and anyone can do this. Everyone has their own expertise and we need to work together to make it a strong area.”