This week, we take a quick recess from The World Cup Cheat Sheet series to discuss the power that the beautiful game can have off the pitch and how Toronto FC player—and homegrown soccer hero—Dwayne “DeRo” De Rosario uses soccer as an agent for change.
Saturday was an immensely successful evening for Dwayne De Rosario and not just because Toronto FC beat his former club, DC United, 1 – 0 in the TFC Home Opener; success came for DeRo that evening off the pitch as well.
More specifically, it came post-game, 30 floors above downtown Toronto inside the Trump Tower, where De Rosario and well-wishers celebrated the launch The DeRo Foundation, his personal foundation in partnership with Toronto Community Foundation.
The evening was an intimate affair, MC’ed by Mark Strong of the Toronto Raptors and DJ’ed by Dames Nellas of Flow 93.5. Toronto FC players Julio Cesar and Jermain Defoe came out to mingle with the crowd and support their teammate, while guests such as CFL-great Mike “Pinball” Clemens and mayor-hopeful Karen Stintz spent the evening snacking on gourmet food from Oliver & Bonacini and bidding on a unique silent auction, which included a plethora of sports memorabilia and exclusive items like a personalized Kevin O’Leary gift basket and a Drake OVO Roots jacket.
However, it was not the sport stars, music, food, or auction items—which were all amazing—that drew the crowd to the Trump; rather, it was everyone’s mutual and overwhelming support for De Rosario’s work and his new foundation.
De Rosario is a huger supporter of youth soccer development, from his own personal experience he knows just how important it is to give back to his community and his involvement within the fabric of Toronto youth soccer culture has become legendary. Through his self-made DeRo United—a development program for young soccer players—and other various initiatives, he has been giving his support to Toronto young athletes for years.
And The DeRo Foundation is the next step in De Rosario’s mission to enrich kid’s lives, starting with soccer laying the groundwork. And that’s what makes the DeRo Foundation so unique; funds from the Foundation do not just focus on soccer. Instead, it uses the sport as a platform to promote education, health, and money management to Toronto’s high risk youth; soccer acts as the catalyst to help improve many other aspects their lives.
Hearing De Rosario explain his vision, listening to him talk about why he does what he does, it easy to understand—and stand behind—his passion and enthusiasm. This is because De Rosario does not give a pitch or an elevator speech; he doesn’t memorize lines or knows how to instinctively work a room. What he does is a lot more compelling—and a lot rarer. He speaks from the heart, he speaks from honestly, and he speaks from firsthand knowledge. He has seen the influence and impact soccer has had in his life and he wants to share that experience and support with children who may not otherwise have any other means of obtaining that direct mentorship.
And it’s not “just” about soccer and De Rosario recognizes that; the DeRo Foundation helps kids look beyond the pitch and teaches them an innovative and holistic approach to life. And that’s what Saturday night was about, the opportunity for De Rosario to share his vision for his new Foundation.
And share he did, and in return, he was overwhelmed and humbled by the reception and support the launch received, “The event couldn’t have been a bigger success,” he said. “I’m appreciative of all the supporters and everyone who came out on Saturday, I can’t wait to take that money and put it to working with the kids.”
Chris Rugel of Rugel Asset Management, a sponsor of the event, shared De Rosario’s optimism with the successful launch, “from our partners at the Toronto Community Foundation to Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, the administrative and financial support has been inspiring, they believe in [De Rosario] and it’s easy to see why. His love of Toronto is genuine. His dedication to kids is heartwarming. And because of that, initiatives at community centres are already in the works.”
Nikki Northern, a board member of the DeRo Foundation and co-founder of Nala Events, organizers of the launch, drove home the importance of the foundation, “I am so proud of [De Rosario] and his commitment to our city. Toronto’s high risk neighbourhoods are overshadowed due to how booming of a city Toronto is when generalized. With him being such a well-recognized athlete around the world, he is making a statement by bringing awareness to these priority youth and communities. And people are listening.”
Lily Aguieiras, Northern’s partner and co-founder of Nala Events, was equally as thrilled with the success launch, “I am so humbled to be a part of [the kick-off]” she said. “I know [De Rosario] reaching his $25,000 goal [of the evening] was just a stepping stone to where the Foundation is headed. It’s truly amazing to see so many athletes and people in the community come together and help out. There is so much love in our city!”
Rugel echoed Northern and Aguieiras sentiments, “Toronto can expect good things from [the Dero] Foundation,”however, he then went on to affirmed, “but we will need continued support from our partners and the public. With everyone’s help we can have a real impact in communities that need our attention.”
De Rosario and his team at the DeRo Foundation will be working hard to make their inaugural year a memorial one. And it looks like it is shaping out to be a bright season for DeRo both on and off the pitch