IHF Awarded a $650,000 Grant to Support the Soccer for Success Program

The Independent Health Foundation Has Been Awarded a $650,000, Three-Year Grant from the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation, to Support the Soccer for Success Program in the City of Buffalo and Beyond


Offered in collaboration with Algonquin Sports, Soccer for Success
is the 
U.S. Soccer Foundation’s after-school youth development program for Children K-8

BUFFALO, NY, September 20, 2017 – The Soccer for Success program in the City of Buffalo, now in its sixth year, has scored a major goal as the Independent Health Foundation today announced a three-year grant totaling $650,000 from the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation to help expand the program in the region.

Soccer for Success, the U.S. Soccer Foundation’s after-school youth development program offered free to participants by the Independent Health Foundation in collaboration with Algonquin Sports, will bring programming to nearly 1,750 children in grades K-8 throughout the City of Buffalo during the current year. Originally hosted at 12 sites, the program has since expanded to 20 locations.

“Thanks to the tremendous support of the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation and continued funding from the U.S. Soccer Foundation, we will continue to provide physical activity, nutrition education and mentorship for children living in underserved communities at no cost to their families,” said Michael W. Cropp, M.D., president and CEO, Independent Health, and President of the Independent Health Foundation board of directors.

“Through our community outreach and the work of the Independent Health Foundation, we remain dedicated to improving the health and fitness of every Western New Yorker,” said Dr. Cropp. “That’s why we engage with like-minded organizations to help create a culture of health in our region. This program helps kids get the exercise they need and fight childhood obesity, while having fun along the way.”

More than 3,000 youngsters and more than 300 coach-mentors have participated in Soccer for Success since it was first launched here in May 2012.

“My children have benefitted greatly from Soccer for Success,” said Chermeka Darby, who has three children participating in the program. “Of course, they like to go because it’s fun, but I also really like that they have another place where they can learn from positive role models about how to live healthy lives. For that, I’m very thankful for this program and its supporters.”

Soccer for Success pairs soccer drills with nutrition education, both of which are taught by consistent, caring adults whose primary focus is to help children build confidence and recognize the value of hard work, teamwork and persistence in achieving personal goals. Participants exercise for 75-90 minutes a day, at least three times per week, for 24 weeks in the academic year.

Soccer for Success youth participants – many of whom are categorized as having high health risks – have significantly improved their aerobic capacity, are making healthier choices in deciding what to eat or drink, are trying harder in school, and have reduced their Body Mass Index (BMI) percentile through their participation,” said Carrie Meyer, executive director of the Independent Health Foundation.

“This program is consistent with our vision to have a Western New York community in which all children, regardless of ZIP code or ability, have the opportunity to be active through sports,” said Jim Boyle, vice president of programs, Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation. In late June the Foundation unveiled a 44-page, detailed “State of Play in Western New York” report on youth sports in the region.

Conducted by the Aspen Institute’s Sports & Society Program as an independent assessment examining access, quality and participation in youth sports in the eight counties of Western New York, and co-sponsored by the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo, the report found only 16 percent of youth in the region are physically active one hour a day, the level recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Soccer for Success is a prime example of the types of programs needed to benefit our children and our community by providing access to quality sport and educational experiences, resulting in a greater likelihood of lifelong healthy habits,” said Boyle.

The three-year grant from the Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation will enable the Independent Health Foundation to expand the Soccer for Success program to 2,250 children during 2018-2019, and to 3,000 in 2019-2020, with an added focus of expanding sites further into the Western New York region.

“We have already begun our expansion by adding two new outdoor sites – J.H. Williams Park and Houghton Park this year – with plans to add three additional sites, including two in Niagara Falls over the next two years,” said Meyer.

Buffalo is one of five cities included in a recent year-long study that examined the health and fitness outcomes of children participating in Soccer for Success compared to children enrolled in non-athletic, non-nutrition-based afterschool programming in the same communities. Results released by the U.S. Soccer Foundation found the program has had a positive influence on the health of its participants.

According to the study, improvements in health and fitness for Soccer for Success children were statistically significantly greater than those of children in non-Soccer for Success programs. Overall, children enrolled in Soccer for Success decreased their BMI percentile and improved their aerobic capacity compared to non-program children.

“The Buffalo Soccer Club is excited to continue collaborating with the Independent Health Foundation and the U.S. Soccer Foundation to offer this program,” said Anna-Lesa Calvert, executive director for Algonquin Sports, which oversees the soccer club. “Sports can play an integral role in a child’s development when they are used to teach important life skills.”

A key component of the program is mentorship. “Each site is staffed by caring coaches who serve as mentors to the children who participate,” said Calvert. “These nationally trained coach-mentors are invested in the successful development of the participants. They take the time to get to know each child, their family and what motivates them.

“The coach-mentors stress the importance of doing well on-and-off the field by avoiding the negative influences of drugs, alcohol and violence. They also use program success as a model for successful problem-solving in other life situations.”

In addition to the grant from the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation, the program is funded by the U.S. Soccer Foundation, Independent Health and the Independent Health Foundation.

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 Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation
The Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation is a grant making organization dedicated primarily to sustained investment in the quality of life of the people of Southeast Michigan and Western New York. The two areas reflect Ralph C. Wilson, Jr.’s devotion to his hometown of Detroit and greater Buffalo, home of his Buffalo Bills franchise. Prior to his passing in 2014, Mr. Wilson requested that a significant share of his estate be used to continue a life-long generosity of spirit by funding the Foundation that bears his name. The Foundation has a grant making capacity of $1.2 billion over a 20-year period, which expires January 8, 2035. This structure is consistent with Mr. Wilson’s desire for the Foundation’s impact to be immediate, substantial, measurable and overseen by those who knew him best. For more information visit www.rcwjrf.org.

About the U.S. Soccer Foundation
The U.S. Soccer Foundation’s programs are the national model for sports-based youth development in underserved communities. Since its founding in 1994, the Foundation has established programs proven to help children embrace an active and healthy lifestyle while nurturing their personal growth beyond sports. Its cost-effective, high-impact initiatives offer safe environments where kids and communities thrive. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., the U.S. Soccer Foundation is a 501(c)(3) organization. For more information, visit www.ussoccerfoundation.org.