On Sunday, October 26, U.S. Women's National Team star Abby Wambach scored four goals in a 6-0 victory over Costa Rica to clinch first place in the 2014 CONCACAF Women's Championship, and earn the United States a berth at next summer's FIFA Women's World Cup in Canada.
One week later, Wambach was back on the field — this time joined not by her USWNT teammates, but by Redmond's Evelyn Briggs and other Washington Youth Soccer players, who gathered at the Tacoma's Pacific Sports and Event Center for lunch and a private clinic with the U.S. soccer legend.
The event was the culmination of months of fundraising conducted by players across the state, to raise money for Washington Youth Soccer's TOPSoccer and Soccer for Success community programs. Each player who participated in the fundraiser earned the chance to play soccer at the clinic with Wambach. In addition, players who raised over $250 had the chance to eat a Chipotle-sponsored lunch with the USWNT star, with the top-10 fundraisers at a private table with Wambach, and the top-two on either side of her.
Players also received wristbands, t-shirts and signed posters, while the top-10 fundraisers were able to take and post selfies with Wambach as well.
In all, players raised more than $22,000 for TOPSoccer and Soccer for Success — inearly 25 percent of which was raised by one fundraiser alone. Briggs, an 11-year-old from Redmond, raised more than $4,500 through weeks of fundraising through friends, family and at public locations throughout her community. As a reward, Briggs was Wambach's "right-hand girl" throughout the day, accompanying the star in the clinics and sitting next to her at lunch.
Prior to the full clinic, Wambach conducted a special clinic for a group of 10 players and buddies from Washington Youth Soccer's TOPSoccer program, which provides access to soccer for kids with physical and mental disabilities.
Following the clinic and lunch, Wambach fielded questions from the players in attendance, and shared some of the important lessons she's learned along the way.
"One of the lessons that I think really hit home was that you can't ever let anyone tell you that you can'd do something," says Matt Moran, Washington Youth Soccer's Director of Competitive Programs. "She recalled that a counselor once told her sister that she couldn't go to Harvard and be successsful, because their grades weren't good enough. But her sister worked hard and did end up going to Harvard, and obviously Abby has earned all of her success as well. The lesson was that if you set a goal and work enough towards it, you can achieve it.
"She also talked about supporting your team, and how when she broke her leg just days before the 2008 Olympics, she wanted to make sure her team knew that she still supported them and that she believed they could win without her," Moran adds. "Which, of course, they did. So it was good to hear both the individual side and the team component."
Wambach also shared details of her new partnership with Triax, makers of wearable head-impact monitors. Every player in the clinic, plus Wambach, wore a Triax head-impact monitoring headband throughout the clinic, part of the player's ongoing efforts to raise awareness of this important issue.
"It was great to have all the kids wearing the headbands during the clinic," Moran says. "It's just one more way to keep kids safe and allow parents to make more informed decisions on return to play."
Moran says that the fundraiser exceeded expectations. And when Wambach takes to the field in Canada next summer for the FIFA Women's World Cup — June 6-July 5, including several games in Vancouver — she'll have a whole legion of new fans behind her ... or maybe even in the stands.
"A big thanks to all the kids who participated, and to their parents as well," Moran says.
To learn more about TOPSoccer or Soccer for Success, click the "Programs" tab at the top of this page.