This past weekend my husband and I were invited to a fundraiser for the select team of a local soccer organization called the Merced Atlas Soccer Academy.
Merced County is the only county in the Central Valley that has a team under the U.S. Soccer Development Academy. The team is made up of 13- to 14-year-olds. The event was a dinner dance that included a raffle, a live auction, four live bands and two performers who impersonated famous Mexican professional singers.
The purpose of the event was to help raise funds for the local soccer team to attend a tournament in Indianapolis in June. The organization raised enough initial funds to secure the cost of the flight for the team and will continue to have fundraisers to cover other costs associated with the trip.
The participation and the support from the players’ parents, their families and community members throughout Merced County was very apparent.
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It’s always good to see parents involved in their children’s lives, whether it’s through school, sports or any other extracurricular activities. On this particular evening, these parents showed they cared by working to provide their children with an opportunity to learn and succeed – in this case through soccer.
As much as the Merced Atlas Soccer Academy is a team effort, there is one individual behind the organization who is responsible for its success and longevity. He is Fernando Aguilera of Merced, a local business owner.
As president of the organization, he provides the kids and their parents with the motivation to get involved in an organized sports program for which he has a passion – soccer. And he encourages their involvement while stressing respect, discipline and humility – on and off the soccer field. That approach is apparent in the team’s respect for him, each other and the need to work together.
Aguilera also has an inspiring story about his life as a homeless youth. But with the help of someone who cared about him, he overcame the odds, found his way through life and became a successful local business owner with a family of his own.
Now, with the help and support of the players’ parents, Aguilera has taken this team to a level placing Merced on the competitive map. On the evening of the event, Aguilera announced that player Gonzalo Solorio had been invited to participate in the U.S. Soccer Training Center in Sacramento.
Besides raising money for the Merced soccer program, this type of event also helps develop a closer bond among participating families because they are all in it together for the benefit of our youths. That brings with it the hope that when these young people go out into the world, they will spread the goodwill and values they learned along the way – from playing soccer, interacting with other players and coaches, and seeing the benefits of their families’ support.
Another event also demonstrates how much Merced cares about making a positive impact in people’s lives. In its second year, the Parent Institute is getting recognition outside Merced County for what it offers parents, caregivers and anyone who guides and teaches children. This conference is from 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Saturday at Golden Valley High School.
The Parent Institute and the Merced Atlas Soccer Academy are helping bring positive change to the lives of children and their families – and it’s happening in Merced County.
Irene De La Cruz is a resident of Planada and has been involved with a number of community events and projects throughout Merced County. She owns her own business. She attended Merced College and California State University, Sacramento. She can be contacted at dlcirenel@ gmail.com.