BUFFALO, N.Y. (November 6, 2014) – The Independent Health Foundation, in collaboration with the Buffalo Soccer Club and United Way of Buffalo and Erie County, is pleased to announce that its Soccer for Success program has been awarded $250,000 through a Social Innovation Fund Sub-Grant from the U.S. Soccer Foundation. As a result, more than 1,000 youngsters from the City of Buffalo will continue to have the opportunity to participate in this free, nationally-recognized program through the end of 2015-2016 school year.
Soccer for Success uses soccer as a tool to provide structured physical activity and nutrition to children ages 6-14 in underserved urban communities. In addition, the program guides youth away from negative influences by providing them with safe places to play during after school hours and having them work with dedicated coach-mentors.
"We are extremely grateful to the U.S. Soccer Foundation for providing us with the funding to allow us to continue to positively impact the lives of so many youngsters through Soccer for Success" said Carrie Meyer, executive director, Independent Health Foundation. "Since introducing the program in May 2012, the response from the community has been tremendous. Soccer for Success has become a great example of how sports can play an integral role in a child’s development by teaching important life skills."
Originally hosted at 12 sites, Soccer for Success has since expanded to 20 schools, community centers and Boys & Girls Clubs throughout Buffalo. Participating students are asked to exercise for 90 minutes a day, at least three times per week, for 24 weeks during the academic year. In turn, the program has yielded impressive results. For example, during the 2013-14 Soccer for Success campaign:
- 88 percent of participants categorized as having high health risks improved their aerobic capacity, which is the maximum amount of oxygen that the body can utilize during an exercise session, usually measured during a brief period of high-intensity exercise.
- 84 percent of participants said they made healthier choices when deciding what to eat or drink after participating in the program.
- 83 percent of participants said that they tried harder in school after participating in the program.
- 69 percent of participants categorized at the beginning of the school year as overweight or obese reduced their Body Mass Index (BMI) percentile.
"By working with students at an early age, it’s allowing us to lay the foundation for a healthier community in the future" said Meyer. "These children are not only being taught the importance of engaging in healthy behaviors, but are also taking this message home to their families."
One of the schools that has benefited from the Soccer for Success program is Public School #54 - George E. Blackman School of Excellence.
"School 54 has been a Soccer for Success site for two years and our students love participating in the program." said Greg Johnson, assistant principal. "We have seen a positive impact on student attendance, academic achievement and character education. Students in the Soccer for Success program are expected to model appropriate behavior, come to school and complete school work. We are thrilled with the response and the results, and are excited to begin a new season."
The Social Innovation Fund requires that each federal dollar granted be matched by the intermediaries and again by the organizations selected to receive a sub-grant. As such, the Independent Health Foundation will match the funding awarded to Soccer for Success over the next two years. In addition, the Buffalo Soccer Club will continue to oversee the coaching and programming aspects at each participating site, while the United Way of Buffalo & Erie County will provide research support and assistance with strategic planning.
"Buffalo Soccer Club is excited to continue running the Soccer For Success program" said Anna-Lesa Calvert, executive director, Algonquin Sports for Kids, Inc./Buffalo Soccer Club. "Thanks to the efforts of more than 170 coaches and mentors, we have been able to help hundreds of area youngsters adopt exercise and proper nutrition habits, while learning the fundamentals of soccer. We look forward to working with even more students over the next two years."
"Continued funding for Soccer for Success will ultimately have a significant impact on the health and wellness of the youth in the program" said Michael Weiner, president and CEO, United Way of Buffalo & Erie County. "We have been pleased to assist with evaluating the program's results and are delighted that this funding will help it continue to make a difference for kids."
About the Independent Health Foundation:
Established in 1992, the Independent Health Foundation works to improve the health and well-being of Western New York residents through awareness, prevention, education and other programs focused on community health priorities. For more information on the Foundation’s activities, visit www.independenthealth.com/foundation.
About the U.S. Soccer Foundation
Established in 1994, the U.S. Soccer Foundation is the Major Charitable Arm of Soccer in the United States, having invested more than $100 million nationwide. The Foundation supports programs and field building projects that provide underserved youth in urban communities with opportunities that promote positive behavior, healthy lifestyles, self-confidence and positive alternatives to drugs, crime and other at-risk behaviors. The Foundation will serve close to 30,000 participants in the Soccer for Success program with the support of over 30 community-based organizations in more than 30 cities, with at least 7 new locations in 2014. To learn more, visit www.ussoccerfoundation.org.