One Surrey soccer team decided to donate nearly $17,000 to charity after COVID-19 cancelled their plans to play in a tournament in Florida last summer.
The Disney Cup International event in Orlando was supposed to be a special “last hurrah” for members of Surrey United’s U18 Wildfire team in their final year of youth soccer.
“Our thought was to go out with a bang, to go to a big tournament at the end of it,” said head coach Darren Rossi. “They were going to spend almost a week there and wrap it all up nicely. This was like a carrot at the end of the whole thing, after years of playing together.”
Teen girls of the silver-division team raised the money over the previous 15 months, before the pandemic deflated their mid-July travel plans.
“Everything fell apart,” recalled Rossi. “It’s an international tournament, with teams from around the world. The big kick was they were going to carry the Canadian flag into the stadium. What an opportunity for them at an event like that. We had jerseys made up with the Canadian flag on them, you know. We were ready.”
When the pandemic dragged on, and it became clear the tournament wouldn’t take place in 2020, the team opted to give the $17,000 to select charities in Surrey.
With the team “retiring” and players entering into their young adulthoods, many moving on in different directions, the players voted that the funds should be donated to worthy causes to help give back to the community, Rossi said.
“We researched a bunch of charities, had multiple Zoom meetings and some votes, and it was decided to divide up the money to four charities, voted on by the girls,” the coach said. “Every girl got a vote about where their portion of the money would go, a share of the money. It was almost $900 per girl.”
In the end, $3,500 was given to the Surrey/White Rock chapter of KidSport BC, $6,175 to the Surrey-area BC SPCA branch, $3,500 to BC Cancer Clinic at Surrey Memorial Hospital, $875 to Surrey Food Bank, $500 to Surrey United’s Building Blocks program and the rest to a new Goal Diggers women’s team some of the players will rep next season.
Unable to participate in the Disney International Cup in Orlando, Florida this summer, our 2002G Wildfire has taken the $17,000 they raised and donated it to the following organizations on behalf of the team and on behalf of Surrey United Soccer Club (1/3) pic.twitter.com/D2ZrwUibkJ— Surrey United Soccer Club (@SurreyUnitedSC) December 22, 2020
Rossi is justifiably proud of the girls he’s coached for five years.
“They did a lot of work to raise the money, no rock left unturned,” he said. “We did bottle drives, pub nights, a wine raffle. There were one or two fundraising events happening every month for about 15 months there. The moms stepped up and ran a fundraising committee. They were relentless with the fundraising.”
The coach said the team “was really tight” and had “an amazing culture” during its run in the last half of the decade.
“A lot of girls got selected to move up to higher divisions but declined, because they wanted to be on this team, to stay on this team,” Rossi said. “It was always about teaching them the sport and also looking forward to them continuing to play on into adulthood. So the team was almost more about making memories and bonding than about winning every Sunday, you know.”
In a series of tweets, Surrey United officials thanked the team for “representing the club and themselves incredibly well,” and for “taking a difficult 2020 and turning it into something special for so many others in our community. We are so proud of you!”