In a month when the history of the San Jose Earthquakes is a main topic of conversation, a key group in building and maintaining the roots of soccer in the South Bay is ready to mark its own contribution to that legacy.
This Saturday evening, at the Computer History Museum in Mountain Valley, the Soccer Silicon Valley Community Foundation will hold its sixth annual fundraising dinner. The event starts at 7:00 p.m., and the scheduled keynote speaker is local and international women's soccer legend Brandi Chastain.
"It's a celebration of soccer and community in the Silicon Valley," said SSVCF president Colin McCarthy. "Attendees will have a chance to enjoy some fine food and drinks while they meet with other members of the soccer community. The event should not only be fun, but also allow us to help some deserving people while we are at it."
The event will also feature a number of guests from the Earthquakes, including many current and former players. First held during the 2008 season - the re-born Earthquakes first season back in MLS - the dinner has always provided a great opportunity for civic minded soccer supporters to congregate, share their stories, and look ahead with excitement to the future along with members of the Quakes.
"We have partnered up with the Earthquakes and we appreciate their support," said McCarthy. "We are also very grateful to the players that will come out, because they don't have to do this. We appreciate their contributions in our community."
Prior to Chastain's address, patrons of the event will have a chance to bid on a variety of soccer items that have been assembled for the occasion. The most impressive item up for auction will be a signed Lionel Messi Barcelona jersey, graciously donated by San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed. Among the other one-of-a-kind items will be an assorted collection of some of Chastain's jerseys throughout her impressive career. Photos and other paraphernalia complete the offerings.
The dinner will also provide a chance to connect with like-minded soccer supporters in Silicon Valley, to discuss the important issues facing the growth of soccer in San Jose, and perhaps even to network with others that see giving back to the community as a calling.
"One thing we are proud of is that SSVCF is a fan-driven organization," said McCarthy. "They motivate us and drive our efforts. And we want anyone with a great idea about how to grow soccer through charitable outreach to come to us. We'll provide the vehicle and the resources to help in your efforts."
The current SSVCF had its start in very much the same way, as it was the assembling of a group of passionate and dedicated Quakes supporters that ultimately helped preserve the heritage of professional soccer in San Jose.
Back in 2004, the Earthquakes franchise had one foot out the door and was all but ready to pull the trigger on relocating outside of the Bay Area, but McCarty, along with other supporters of the club, banded together to former Soccer Silicon Valley in an effort to save the team. They did help to delay the eventual move of the franchise to Houston until a year later, but SSV's legacy was one of saving the historical records of the MLS Earthquakes, including the two championship trophies of 2001 and 2003, for future adoption by a new franchise.
When principal investor Lew Wolff agreed to a deal with MLS to restart the Earthquakes in 2007, SSV's contribution ensured a continued history of the club. It's mission realized, though not directly as originally envisioned, the leadership of SSV ushered in the next iteration of the organization, one that evolved into a community charitable group.
"The Soccer Silicon Valley Community Foundation is about building community through soccer," explained McCarty. "Once the Earthquakes had a new owner, our goal of saving the franchise was achieved. Because of the momentum and the grass-roots support that we had, we agreed that a good way to channel it was to form a charitable foundation."
The organization's most visible achievement has been the Kidzone section of Buck Shaw Stadium that seats groups of deserving youths at every Earthquakes home game. SSVCF works with its members and other community members to purchase a large block of tickets that it then distributes to groups throughout the Bay Area.
"We want to send deserving groups of young persons to games so they can funnel their passion into the sport we love," shared McCarthy. "We hope to build new fans that will really enjoy the experience of the game. Having the community come together and send 50 people to every game is something we are very proud of."
In addition to the ongoing Kidzone program, active since the first game of the 2008 season, SSVCF has been highly active in collaborating with History San Jose to collect, catalog, and preserve soccer-related artifacts from over 40 years of local professional soccer. With the opening of the new Earthquakes stadium next year, SSVCF and History San Jose are hoping the collection, which held a temporary exhibit at San Jose city hall in 2011, will have a new home for all to enjoy.
"It stands as probably the biggest collection of soccer artifacts this side of the Mississippi," revealed McCarthy. "And we are working with the Earthquakes to make sure parts of the collection are displayed in the new stadium. We expect it will be a huge accomplishment in preserving the legacy of professional soccer in the Bay Area."
Saturday's dinner has a parallel in the club's 40th anniversary party scheduled for January 30 in that both are events to promote the unity of the San Jose soccer community, and one would not be complete without the other. Tickets to the sixth annual SSVCF dinner can be purchased on the group's website.