Members of the Red Bulls street team balanced soccer balls and performed fancy pitch footwork yesterday during Soccer Fun Fest, an event sponsored by a real estate investment firm and benefitting the children taking part in athletic programs offered by the Claudio Reyna Foundation.
During the event, the young players also received uniforms from the firm, AREA Property Partners, which owns several buildings near Weequahic Park, where the “fun fest” was held yesterday afternoon.
“AREA is a strong advocate for the improvement of urban neighborhoods in New Jersey through our sponsorship of the Claudio Reyna Foundation and our investments in local property,” AREA partner James Simmons said in a statement. “We’re proud to have this opportunity to positively influence and shape the future of this community.”
About 1,600 children aged 6 to 14 participate in Claudio Reyna Foundation soccer programs, said Josh Morgan, the program’s executive director. The children come from urban communities throughout the New Jersey-New York metro area, including Trenton, Brooklyn, Camden and Newark, where the foundation began in 2008 with just 68 participants.
The Claudio Reyna Foundation was founded by what many consider to be the greatest professional soccer player the United States has ever produced. Born in Livingston, Reyna helped Newark’s St. Benedict’s Prep achieve a 65-0 record while Reyna was a student there. Reyna went on to enjoy considerable success in pro soccer, captaining the US team in the 2006 FIFA world championships. Morgan, who now runs the foundation, was Reyna’s teammate at St. Benedict’s.
Reyna’s foundation aims not just to teach the fundamentals of the world’s game but also instructs its young charges in the importance of good nutrition and maintaining healthy lifestyles, Morgan said. The kids learn about proper hydration -- such as drinking more water and less soda -- the six food groups and other lessons designed to combat the epidemic in childhood obesity, which is especially rampant in urban communities.
“We also make that part of the day so it’s built into the soccer practice,” Morgan said.
Richard Mack, an AREA executive, said his firm became involved with the foundation after Mack came to know Claudio Reyna personally through soccer programs Mack’s children were participating in.
“The three of us have a deep personal relationship with Claudio. [AREA] is investing in neighborhoods like Newark, and the Reyna Foundation is investing in our children,” Mack said yesterday. “We feel it is a great way to support our community emotionally and fiscally.”
For more information about the Claudio Reyna Foundation, visit claudioreynafoundation.org or call Morgan at 848-469-6086.