Tikkun olam means “Repairing the World” in Hebrew and that is exactly what one 13-year-old boy has done with a little help from the U.S. Soccer Foundation.
Inspired by his passion for soccer, Jacob Wolf Price decided that in lieu of a traditional Jewish Bar Mitzvah he would celebrate his Jewish rite of passage by planning a community soccer event that raised more than $8,000 to benefit Hollywood Police Activities League (PAL). The event, coined the “Philanthro-party,” featured a scrimmage and a presentation of in-kind donations, including soccer balls, uniforms and safety equipment. Sponsors for the event were the U.S. Soccer Foundation, LA Galaxy, Fox Soccer Channel, The David Beckham Academy, Whole Foods, adidas and many more.
Hollywood PAL is a community-based non-profit crime prevention program that provides children, ages six to 17 with a positive alternative to gangs and drugs, including recreational activities such as soccer. Because of recent funding problems, however, many of PAL’s programs were in danger of displacement. The Foundation identified PAL (a 2003 grantee) as a prime candidate for aid and set-up a personal fundraising webpage for Jacob through the Foundation’s “Friends Asking Friends” website. The “Friends Asking Friends” webpage enabled Jacob to reach out to his family and friends on a more personal level by honoring donors and tracking total donations to date.
Jacob’s generosity and philanthropic spirit have significantly helped PAL to further its initiatives to support at-risk youths. “Because of the economy, we have to diversify our fundraising, and we’re at a need,” says PAL executive director Staci Armao. “To have a supplement to keep our programs afloat, it’s really remarkable.”
The evening’s scrimmage took place between Jacob’s U-14 club team and the U-14 PAL team and was a perfect way to celebrate the night. A surprise appearance by John O’Brien, former National Team member and Chivas USA star, and a letter honoring Jacob’s profound accomplishments from women’s soccer legend Mia Hamm capped the celebration as one to remember. “Everyone was moved by Jacob’s selflessness,” says Yvonne Wolfe, Jacob’s mother. “The warmth in the room was palpable.”
Jacob, a soccer enthusiast, wanted to incorporate his love for soccer and his desire to give back. “Jacob has an incredible passion for soccer, and immediately he knew that his Bar Mitzvah project would be about this,” Yvonne says. “And in his mind, not only does soccer lead to great things in life like scholarships, but it is where he forgets his problems. So for these underserved children, he thought it was somewhere he could help.”
The U.S. Soccer Foundation has shared in the excitement and profound impact that Jacob’s project has fostered among so many. Ed Foster-Simeon, president of the U.S. Soccer Foundation, reflected on Jacob’s achievements and selflessness. “We really get excited when we hear of young people who share our vision for the game as a tool for something positive in our communities, and Jacob seems to have grasped that concept at a very young age and then run with it.”
“I want kids to forget all their problems for a few minutes while they play soccer,” Jacob says. Jacob, wise beyond his years, has realized the power of sport to change lives in such a positive way. Getting children off the streets and into safe environments where they are staying active will not only impact the children, but also their families and the community at large.
“Why would you spend $10,000 on a four-to-five-hour party, when I could have four-to-five hours of fun and change society without spending more than a few thousand dollars?” he said. “I’ll make a bet with you. Go to 10 Bar or Bat Mitzvahs. Nine or 10 of them will not have the theme of ‘Change the World.’”
That is exactly what Jacob has done – changed the world for a deserving group of kids through a mutual love for soccer.