May 13, 2009
Student Project Scores for Soccer Charity
Jacob Wolf Price has two goals. One is of the soccer variety: put the ball in the back of the net or at least keep the opponent from doing so. The second goal relates to soccer, too, but Jacob thinks beyond his 13 years — he wants to use the sport to help less-fortunate youths.
When it comes to celebrating his bar mitzvah, Jacob is eschewing the typical party. After being called to the Torah at Temple Israel of Hollywood on June 6, he will play a charity soccer match that will benefit the Hollywood Police Activities League (PAL)’s soccer program.
Jacob has almost single-handedly organized the event and overseen just about all of the details, including the fundraising, renting a field, invitations to this private event and sponsorships from, among others, Adidas and the David Beckham Academy.
“He’s extraordinary,” said PAL executive director Staci Armao, whose organization will receive the $3,500 already raised — and that was before the invitations went out. “I’m really amazed by his maturity.”
Jacob, a Beverly Hills resident, seems to have a real talent for the game. Even before he was born, his mother, Yvonne, said he was a real kicker. The family’s first house had a gravel path, and little Jacob got yelled at for kicking the rocks. He’d clean up his mess by kicking them back onto the path.
So perhaps soccer was a natural fit when he was introduced to it at age 5. He had previously played ice hockey, a sport some believe has the same strategies as soccer but without the kicking.
At home, the garage walls took numerous blows as Jacob imagined he was Beckham, Brazil’s Ronaldo, Zinedine Zidane of France and Americans Landon Donovan, Cobi Jones and Mia Hamm. He read about Pelé and Diego Maradona, rooted for the Galaxy and Chelsea, and he was up early in the morning to watch Brazil beat Germany in the 2002 World Cup final.
He played offense at first but switched to defense after his teammates gave up goals. He grew to love slide tackling and still occasionally assists and scores for his Pacific Coast Soccer Club team.
Like so many synagogues, Temple Israel requires b’nai mitzvah students to engage in acts of tikkun olam, or repairing the world. However, few go to the lengths Jacob has.
“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.’”
The parties are fun, he said, just not for him.
With the help of his mother, an event planner, Jacob in October set about finding a way to use soccer to help others. An Internet search turned up the United States Soccer Foundation (USSF), the U.S. Soccer Federation’s charitable arm. Conversations with that Washington, D.C.-based organization led Jacob to Hollywood PAL.
According to a USSF Web page, the proceeds will help Hollywood PAL implement a program for youngsters ages 6-9, as well as keep and possibly expand current programming. More than 150 children from gang-infested areas fraught with drugs, violence and other crime who rely on this after-school and weekend fun are in danger of being displaced due to funding problems, according to the organization’s Web site.
PAL’s Armao said Jacob’s timing is fortuitous.
“Because of the economy, we have to diversify our fundraising, and we’re at a need,” she said. “To have a supplement to keep our programs afloat, it’s really remarkable.”
Jacob’s letters to sponsors have led Adidas to donate 25 soccer balls and numerous water bottles. The Beckham Academy has given clothing. Jacob has gotten into the act by offering incentives for financial donations. These include a personal thank-you call, autographed photo, list of his top 10 secrets to great soccer, a 45-minute scrimmage and six monthly cleat-cleaning sessions.
“He’s really feeling it,” his mother said, “He’s feeling like he’s making a difference.”
Said Jacob: “I want kids to forget all their problems for a few minutes while they play soccer.”
To donate, visit www.ussoccerfoundation.org/faf/home/default.asp?ievent=303474.