News & Politics

A Night Out: Street Soccer USA Awards Dinner

What: Sports for Social Change Awards Dinner.

Where: Hudson Restaurant & Lounge.

When: Saturday, August 1.

Ticket price: $150 per person, $250 per couple.

Cause: Street Soccer USA, which operates under the umbrella of Help USA, uses the power and inspiration of sports to bring positive change to the lives of homeless people around the country. Currently there are 16 city leagues including the DC Knights. Every year, SSUSA hosts the Street Soccer USA Cup—this year, it was hosted in DC by the Leonsis Foundation and the Washington Kastles.

Honorees included Capitals owner Ted Leonsis, DC United players Clyde Simms and Thabiso Khumalo, and documentarian Susan Koch, director of Kicking It. Awards were also given to Street Soccer USA players from Charlotte, Atlanta, and Los Angeles for overcoming incredible hurdles and improving their lives by setting goals on and off the field.

Photographs by Rich Qualters

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Dinner: Soccer players have good appetites: The line to the buffet was out the door and remained so well after 9.

Silent auction: Sports memorabilia—mostly autographed black-and-white photographs of famous athletes—were featured in the silent auction. A few of our favorites:
• Derek Jeter-autographed photo: minimum bid, $700.
• Pelé-autographed photo: minimum bid, $400.
• Michael Phelps-autographed cover of Sports Illustrated: minimum bid, $450.
• Jerry Garcia framed lithograph: minimum bid, $325.

Scene: According to Lawrence Cann, founder and CEO of Street Soccer USA, an estimated 75 percent of the homeless who join Street Soccer are able to get off the streets within one year. “A lot of folks simply don’t get enough tough love,” Cann said. “People who have grown up in poverty aren’t easily convinced that they’ll get out what they put into something.” Street Soccer USA aims to create a long-term plan for people to escape poverty. “The athletic field is a great equalizer and creates the right boundaries,” said Cann. A soccer lover since childhood, he’s often on the field playing with Street Soccer teams.

Maria Cuomo-Cole, wife of designer Kenneth Cole, was among the guests. As chairman of Help USA, she was a member of the event’s host committee. “Every player on each of the 16 teams has been touched so greatly by the program,” she said. “Their self-esteem has soared, and they have a greater sense of responsibility and discipline.” Cuomo-Cole also said that one of the greatest challenges the program faces is the stigma attached to the homeless community. “We hope that by helping them find jobs and homes, we can help transform them into individuals who feel equal in their own community.”

Ratings (Click here for an explanation of our rating system):
Boldface names: 2 (out of 5)
Swankiness: 2 (out of 5)
Food and drink: 3 (out of 5)
Overall exclusivity: 3 (out of 5)

Total: 10 (out of 20)

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