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My name is Scott Switalla. I was lucky enough to win the raffle that the LAFC Foundation hosted. The prize: a trip to London to go see Chelsea vs. Aston Villa at Stamford Bridge in London, England. Thank you to the LAFC Foundation for making such a trip possible. It was an experience my son and I will cherish the rest of our lives.

I received the phone call in the afternoon informing me that I had won the trip for two to London. I immediately called my wife to decide which of us was going to take our 8-year old son, Julian. You see there was never a doubt that Julian would go, Chelsea had been his favorite team since he started watching soccer (even before he started playing). My wife is very kind so she allowed me to go on the trip. That evening while I was driving Julian to his LAFC Chelsea practice at Pasadena High School, I asked him a question.

“If you could go and watch any sporting event anywhere in the world, what would you want to go and see?” He had no idea the raffle even existed.
He immediately replied, “I would go see Chelsea play, wait do they play Barcelona? But I would go watch them play in London for sure.” I asked him if Aston Villa would be ok. He jokingly said of course. It took me five minutes to get him to believe that we were actually going to go see Chelsea play in London. He was literally in tears he was so happy and excited.

Our flight left on Wednesday evening, March 24th and due to the time difference we arrived Thursday early afternoon. The hotel the LAFC Foundation booked for us was the beautiful InterContinental London Park Lane. We checked in and had to take a nap. Once we awoke, we spent the evening walking around the neighborhood and admiring the beautiful architecture of London. Next door was the Hard Rock Café and the Japanese Embassy. The hotel was also just a short walk from Buckingham Palace.

Friday morning we woke up and spent the entire day sight-seeing. A few highlights were a trip to the National Gallery. My son is a huge art fan and to see Van Gogh’s Sunflower painting in person was a true treat. We also walked around Kensington Palace and of course bought some stuff at Hamley’s Toy Store which is celebrating its 250th anniversary. We also went to Her Majesty’s Theatre, the London Tower and took a walk down Millionaire’s Row (which is now mostly foreign embassies).

Saturday was Match Day. We awoke early so we could see a few more sites. We also knew we wanted to arrive at Stamford Bridge early so we could really enjoy the experience. We actually were the first fans in the stadium, which allowed us to take some great photos. Julian was extremely excited and enjoyed all the pre-game warm-ups, etc. Aston Villa’s starting goalkeeper is Brad Friedel, an American who was the first to take the field for warm-ups. He watched as all of his favorite players went through their warm-ups. Then when the starters came out to take the field his heart dropped for a bit. He noticed immediately that Didier Drogba, his favorite player was not in the starting 11. Still, he named off all of Chelsea’s starters as they paraded onto the field. He was in heaven.

As the game kicked off it was apparent immediately that Chelsea was firing on all cylinders. Our area of the stadium, known as The Shed was loud and energetic. Julian’s second favorite player Frank Lampard opened the scoring in the 15th minute with a strike and celebrated right in front of us. It would be a special day for Lampard as he would score four goals in the match, including career goals 150 and 151, which brought him to third all-time in Chelsea history. Florent Malouda scored two goals and Salomon Kalou scored one as Chelsea dominated the match for a final score of 7-1!

It was truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience and I cannot thank the LAFC Foundation enough for the remarkable experience. Thanks to all!

13 / May / 2010  Latest News  Comments (0)
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Last month, Don Sheppard spent two weeks with professors Heather Wipfli and Kiros Berhane from USC’s Institute for Global Health touring the Tigrai region of Ethiopia. The widely respected Institute for Global Health is an LAFC Foundation partner. The two organizations are committed to addressing major health and educational problems in the Tigrai region.

The purpose of the trip was to develop a finer understanding of the challenges that Tigrai’s people are facing and strengthen bonds with local groups, most importantly, the non-profit Tigrai Development Authority. LAFC will build a soccer field in Tigrai’s capital city of Mekele. The facility will include a running track and space to distribute information and healthy foods. Ethiopia faces rising incidences of a number of diseases linked to poor nutrition and inactivity. LAFC and USC hope to transform communities surrounding the Mekele field and create a model for future projects. Below are Don Sheppard’s impressions of his time in Ethiopia.

Ethiopians are a remarkable people, welcoming, smart, ambitious and resilient.

They are not long removed from the violent civil wars that left millions of people homeless and fearing for their safety. Yet their spirit is strong. They are determined to improve their lives and see education as the best way to achieve their goals. The country is in the midst of a huge initiative that has already added countless schools and 20 new universities. The Tigrai Development Authority has been part of this effort, building schools in this Northern state bordered partly by Eritrea, another country with a stormy past. Tigrai Development is also committed to spurring higher participation in sports, better healthcare services and more job opportunities. Perhaps my most memorable experience though was of the children who followed me. They were poor but didn’t want money or food; rather they sought pens and pencils, which are in short supply and badly needed to do schoolwork.

The hotels were functional, maybe a little more at best and the food—a lot of stews and grains—was not fancy. But we were never uncomfortable. It reminded me that we can be happy with less.

Ethiopia has done an exceptional job in maintaining its roads. We traveled in sport utility vehicles and sedans on two-lane highways that were in good shape. I’ve seen more potholes in parts of Los Angeles. The countryside itself is a beautiful mosaic of farmland and forests and small mountain ranges. It is difficult to believe that large parts of the country are arid and that many Ethiopians were starving not long ago. I arrived in Ethiopia with a healthy respect for the people and left with an even greater respect and determination to help create better lives there.

13 / May / 2010  Latest News  Comments (0)
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World Health Day: Soccer for the Community offered both benefits. The health fair and soccer bonanza at the City of Huntington Park earlier this month provided over 500 Adidas soccer balls—World Cup replicas—donated by the LAFC Foundation with the help of Adidas and healthcare information, products and services that may change lives. The event drew an estimated 2,500 people from a community that ranks among the poorest in the Los Angeles area and suffers from high rates of obesity and other chronic disease associated with poverty. It was part of a weeklong initiative by health and medical programs at USC and UCLA to promote healthier living.

Earlier this year, LAFC and USC’s Institute of Global Health agreed to team up on projects combating obesity and other health problems in Mexico and Ethiopia. The groups have also been interested in Huntington Park, an East Los Angeles community where two in five children are obese. LAFC uses soccer to draw families to important healthcare, social and educational programming. It is unique among sports-based, non-profit organizations because it builds fields and other facilities that serve as community centers.

The health fair provided families with nutritious food, including Subway sandwiches, salad, carrots, fresh fruit, healthy kettle corn and Clif Bars. Special thanks to West Central Produce, Clif Bars and Rock-N-Roll Gourmet for donating their products. There was plenty of entertainment throughout the day, as people swayed to the sounds of merengue/salsa bands and Joe Munoz, former American Idol finalist and Huntington Park resident.

But soccer was the main attraction. Coaches from the LAFC soccer club staged clinics and games and distributed t-shirts and soccer balls to participants ages 5-16 who had visited at least seven tables offering healthcare materials and other resources. Players received a stamp in a Passport to Health booklet for each table that they had visited. There were 19 tables in all covering such topics as dental health, obesity and nutrition, AIDS education, respiratory ailments and alcohol and drug abuse.

“The kids all came to our coaches with the right number of stamps,” said Manny Martins, who headed the delegation of LAFC coaches and is director of girls coaching at LAFC. “Through the incentive of soccer, they were able to take advantage of the health side of things that they normally wouldn’t be able to access. It was a great atmosphere and the energy level of the kids was so high; they were easy to work with.”

13 / May / 2010  Latest News  Comments (0)
  • Arts & Culture
    • World Health Day’s ‘Soccer in the Streets’
    • USC, UCLA and the LAFC Foundation plan to help educate the community about the importance of health April 18, 1 to 5 p.m., at Salt Lake Park, 3401 E. Florence Ave., Huntington Park, as part of “Soccer in the Streets.”
    • This will be a community-wide soccer event and health fair that promotes fitness and nutrition for youth in Huntington Park.
16 / April / 2010  Latest News  Comments (0)

A March 30th CNN story makes a good point about two recent studies offering contradictory views on the best way to exercise. Whether subscribing to one theory or the other, experts say the overriding message should be that it’s best to move around regularly.
You’ll be healthier, less likely to become overweight or obese and develop consequent diseases.

The studies pit short, intense bursts of exercise versus classic endurance training. Each holds advantages and disadvantages. Researchers at Canada’s McMaster University found that high-speed, interval training for 20 minutes may offer comparable benefits to endurance exercise. The researchers asked seven men to follow a pattern: one minute of pedaling a stationary bike at maximum effort with one minute of rest. The workout addressed one of the main impediments to exercising: that it’s too time-consuming. But the McMaster scientists acknowledged that high intensity exercise isn’t to everyone’s liking. “It’s uncomfortable exercise,…it hurts,” said Martin Gibala, who headed the study. So other people may prefer a Brigham and Women’s Hospital/Harvard Medical School finding that women who exercised one hour daily were more likely to maintain their weight. The study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, looked at more than 34,000 women’s exercise patterns over 13 years.

Of course, you could always follow a path between the two approaches. Department of Health and Human Resources guidelines recommend two-and-a-half hours of moderate exercise per week for adults and one hour daily for children and teens.

31 / March / 2010  Latest News  Comments (0)

Perhaps never before has the mission of organizations addressing unhealthy weight gain and obesity been timelier.

Consider the latest data collected by the Weight Control Information Network (WIN), a news service created by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disease and posted on the Web site of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Resources. Two in three Americans older than 20 are overweight, while one in three adults in this age group are obese. The problem is particularly acute among minority populations, many of who live in poor communities. Nearly two in five African and Hispanic Americans are obese.

This has not been a sudden phenomenon but long-term shift. According to WIN, since the early 1960s, the obesity rate has approximately tripled. It has also started early in people’s lives, when they develop exercise and dietary habits. About one in five American children between the ages of six and 19 are overweight.

Being overweight or obese increases the risk of diabetes, coronary heart disease, stroke, fatty liver and gallbladder disease, osteoarthritis – the degeneration of cartilage and joints – sleep apnea, reproductive and hormonal irregularities and some forms of cancer. It is also linked to earlier mortality. Obesity is connected to 112,000 deaths due to cardiovascular disease. The cost: Obese people pay almost $1,500 more annually than those who maintain an appropriate weight for their age and build.

Reducing obesity is one of the LAFC Foundation’s primary goals. Consider recent headlines at four of the country’s leading news organizations, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Times and CNN – both online and in print. The Times offered extensive coverage of the launching of Let’s Move, an initiative led by First Lady Michelle Obama to change exercise and eating habits in children and their families. Let’s Move is engaging an unusually large alliance of governmental, academic, health, sports and business organizations.

The Journal and Los Angeles Times included several articles on studies connecting physical activity to weight control. The most interesting story highlighted a study showing that women who engaged in 60 minutes of moderate exercise daily – 420 minutes per week – maintained their weight.

30 / March / 2010  Latest News  Comments (0)

After a two-year battle with cancer, Jessie Mastan passed away at City of Hope Hospital on March 22. Mastan was 14. She played for LAFC and ran track. In 2008, she was diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma, a rare bone disease that spread into her lungs. She went into remission and appeared on the City of Hope/City of Duarte float at the annual Rose Parade. But the cancer returned earlier this year and complications set in. Please keep Jessie and her family in your prayers at this difficult time.

The LAFC Foundation has established a fund in Jessie’s name to assist the Mastan family. Anyone wishing to contribute may send a check, payable to LAFC — Team Jessie. Please send your checks to the LAFC Foundation, 336 South Euclid Ave., Pasadena, Calif. 91101. A list of donors will be provided to the Mastan family. Please indicate on your check if you would like to remain anonymous. For large donations, please call the LAFC Office at 626-685-9503.

24 / March / 2010  Latest News  Comments (0)

February was another good month for LAFC soccer. Four players will be headed to college in the fall, adding to a growing list of distinguished alumni who have used soccer as a springboard for furthering their education. Morgan Barnes will play for the University of San Francisco, Umar Issa and Francisco Cantero are headed to Kansas Wesleyan, an NAIA school, and Santos Romero Rios is headed to California State University Dominguez Hills. Their commitments follow by less than two months the acceptance of four other players to strong college programs.

Eleven players were invited to a national training camp that begins March 9 at Mt. San Antonio College. LAFC standouts Pablito Cruz, Martin Irhueta, Jose Dheming and Marco Delgado will attend the U18 national training camp, while Hugo Guttierez, Kevin Deniz, Kevin Cervantez, William Reygosa, Alejandro Sanchez and Vincent Reyes were selected for the U16 age group. These monthly camps, part of the United States Soccer Development Academy, help pinpoint players for national youth teams. Hugo Perez, a scout for the USSDA, oversees the Mt. San Antonio program.

In the recently completed California Cup for age groups U9 through U13, two teams won titles, while another six reached at least the semifinals. This is no small achievement at one of the most challenging tournaments in Southern California.

5 / March / 2010  Latest News  Comments (1)

A first day.

A new dawn.

On February 1, amidst hope, smiles and blue skies, WISER’s boarding school for girls in Muhuru Bay, Kenya welcomed its first 30 students. Their arrival culminated the work of distinguished educators on two continents eager to reverse generations of treating women in the Muhuru Bay area as second-class citizens, and to transform the impoverished fishing community on the shores of Lake Victoria, Africa’s largest lake. WISER (Women’s Institute for Secondary Education and Research) is a four-year partnership between Duke University in the U.S. and Kenya’s Egerton University. The LAFC Foundation contributed funding for the WISER school, the first girls boarding school in Muhuru Bay. LAFC has made a three-year commitment to construct a sports field and create a soccer program that will promote an active lifestyle and serve as a magnet for community programming.

Muhuru Bay suffers from high rates of malaria and HIV. Girls have often been the victims, orphaned at young ages and sometimes forced into prostitution. Just 5 percent of Muhuru Bay girls finish their secondary education. WISER will offer fresh opportunities for these girls, teens and adults — all receiving full scholarships — to pursue their education. One of the first students accepted was 36 years old. The WISER school is aiming to have 120 students by the time the first class graduates in 2013. Students will follow a liberal arts curriculum, including English, science, mathematics and language.

A ceremony in early January to celebrate the completion of the school drew more than 1,500 people, including the immigration minister in Kenya’s government, and featured speeches and song. The first day of classes was more contemplative but equally moving. Students moved into their dorm rooms, picked up uniforms, books and school supplies and met the school’s five teachers and principal. The classrooms have the first white boards and highest ratio of microscopes to students in Nyanza Province, where Muhuru Bay is located. “As I watched each girl walk into her classroom and sit at her own desk on her own chair, I began to imagine the possibilities that await all of us,” said Andy Cunningham, WISER’s executive director and co-founder in an email to fellow co-founders, professors Sherryl Broverman and Rose Odhiambo. “I began to imagine the possibilities that await all of us. Could we be looking at the first female Kenyan president? Absolutely! Could there be the next African there be the next African Nobel Peace Prize winner in our midst? Absolutely!”

11 / February / 2010  Latest News, WISER  Comments (0)

LAFC President and founder Don Sheppard (upper right) and actor Matt Damon have more in common than you’d think. Both are fans of English Premier League soccer. Witness their attendance February 7 at historic Stamford Bridge, home field of Chelsea FC. They watched Chelsea thrash rival Arsenal 2-0 behind two Didier Drogba goals. Sheppard and Damon are humanitarians committed to transforming underserved communities worldwide. The LAFC Foundation builds soccer fields and programs that promote healthier, more active lifestyles and connect families to vital services. Over the years, Damon has supported numerous worthy causes and organizations. Recently, through the group ONEXONE, Damon has worked with partners to provide children with clean water, food, improved education and healthcare. Yet aside from Damon’s Academy Award, there are strong differences between the two, not the least of which is that while Sheppard has been a semi-regular presence at Chelsea games, Damon is reportedly a Tottenham Hotspurs fan.

9 / February / 2010  Latest News  Comments (0)