David Beckham, LA Galaxy give Red Shield new soccer field
By Hillary Jackson –
The door at The Salvation Army’s Los Angeles Red Shield Center opens, and kids from the Pico Union neighborhood bound out, clad in matching L.A. Galaxy t-shirts. Once their eyes land on the newly refurbished soccer field, they can only scream one word: “awesome!”
It’s the first time they’ve seen David Beckham L.A. Galaxy Community Field at the Red Shield Youth Center. Volunteers from L.A. Galaxy and Herbalife are ready to help them break it in through a soccer clinic at the March 1 dedication event. It’s only seconds before soccer balls start flying.
As the drills continue, the kids are joined by Cozmo, the mascot for the L.A. Galaxy, and eventually David Beckham, the famous retired soccer player himself.
Funded by the L.A. Galaxy Foundation, David Beckham, Herbalife Nutrition and AEG, the David Beckham L.A. Galaxy Community Field replaces a well-worn field at the L.A. Red Shield Youth Center. The turf field will give 2,000 L.A. youth from the underserved neighborhood a safe place to play soccer each month.
“I stand here in awe of the beauty of this field,” said Irene Lewis, Executive Director of the L.A. Red Shield Youth Center. “They use the term ‘it takes a village,’ and let me tell you: here is our village.”
Lewis thanked the partners whose contributions made the field possible, many of whom have supported The Salvation Army’s efforts throughout her 28-year tenure. She then turned to Beckham.
“It’s individuals like you who are committed to the lives of young people,” Lewis said. “Individuals who say, ‘I want to make an investment. I want to make a change in the lives of children…especially these kids in Pico Union’… There’s a lot of challenges here, but with your support with AEG, L.A. Galaxy and Herbalife, you are definitely making a change and building a legacy for the lives of these kids.”
Lewis then counted down for the group of around 50 kids seated by the podium, who screamed “Thank you, David Beckham.”
The sentiment was echoed throughout the event by community members looking-on from the other side of the field’s chain link fence—community members who have experienced the happenings of the Red Shield Youth Center’s soccer programs that started in 1992.
“We have seen the transformation that can happen in the lives of young people as a result of football,” Territorial Commander Commissioner Kenneth G. Hodder said, recalling the impact a makeshift soccer field made on youth in Kenya during his appointment there. “I therefore have every confidence that what takes place here will be even more transformational for these young people and for young people for years to come in this community.”
California South Divisional Commander Lt. Colonel John Chamness credited soccer for playing a “pivotal role” in his character development, and turned to thank Beckham for extending the opportunity to kids in Pico Union.
“Today we honor one of the greats, one of the legends of soccer, David Beckham for the contribution he has made in the countless lives of boys and girls around the globe,” Chamness said. “[He] has inspired many by his great legacy to realize soccer can have such a powerful impact on the lives of those who are committed to the sport.”
In addition to the namesake field, a mural by Mark Paul Deren depicts Beckham’s time as a member of the L.A. Galaxy as a way to signify Beckham’s contributions to the sport in the U.S. and to L.A.’s youth.
“When I was your age, I didn’t have the opportunity of a great field like this. I didn’t have the opportunity of a safe field like this,” Beckham said. “You have a real opportunity, but it’s all about your dreams. It’s all about what you want to do with those dreams, and if you can be polite, be energetic, be committed and be passionate about what you want to do…Just believe in those dreams.”