Features & Columns
Brandi Chastain's ReachuP! Foundation
Only Brandi Chastain could get Kristi Yamaguchi and Bret Hedican to play soccer, in front of an audience, in a minor-league baseball stadium. But if you attend Brandi's 2012 celebrity co-ed soccer match on Sept. 22 for that reason alone, you're missing the point, because plenty of other athletes will be taking part.
There will also be a kids' soccer clinic with Chastain, some open field time and even a Radio Disney post-game concert—all at San Jose's Municipal Stadium and all to benefit a rocking cause: Brandi's own ReachuP! Foundation.
Beginning in 2010, Chastain, along with Los Gatos podiatrist Joan Oloff, partnered to start the ReachuP! Foundation to mentor teenage girls, inspire them to make healthy lifestyle choices and provide them with more authentic role models than they see on pop-culture television. Oloff originally stepped into the picture, years earlier, as the foot doctor for the San Jose CyberRays women's professional soccer club, back when Chastain played for the team. They became friends, and the rest was history.
In 2010, when Chastain officially hung up her cleats as a professional player, she staged a testimonial match at Buck Shaw Stadium. The game functioned as both a celebration of her professional career and the launching of the ReachuP! Foundation.
Since Brandi was retiring, a star-studded cast of characters—men and women—participated in that game: current Major League Soccer stars, retired players, former and then-current members of the Women's National Team including Mia Hamm, plus various coaches, local players and almost anyone who wanted to play. Several flew in just for the occasion.
On Sept. 22, another cavalcade of activities will transpire. From noon until 4pm, an "ultimate field day" will take place in the parking lot for free. At 2pm, Brandi will host a soccer clinic, limited to 100 participants for an extra charge.
The celebrity match begins at 4:15pm, and the concert with Radio Disney's Damian & Shane Harper commences at 6:45pm. After the whole shebang concludes, a meet 'n' greet will take place at a to-be-disclosed locale. All in all, girls who attend will take away a wealth of inspiration and positive energy.
"We want them to feel engaged, to take something home with them, to feel like they're a part of the day," Chastain says. "To really feel like they've had a great overall experience, not just going to a game and sitting down. For me, and for Joan, too, we want them to be hands-on. It's not about somebody telling them something. It's about them experiencing something. And then walking away feeling like they've really gotten something out of the day."
Quite a few athletes, almost all with local ties, will take part in the celebrity match. Yamaguchi and her husband, the retired NHL star and CSN announcer, Bret Hedican, will don the cleats and participate. Sharks legend Mike Ricci will also partake.
Former Stanford volleyball superstar, Ogonna Nnamani, who's never once even played soccer, immediately jumped on board because she strongly supports the cause. SJSU grad and former 49ers place-kicker Joe Nedney will be there, as will women's freeskier Kristi Leskinen. What a combination. Other folks slotted to attend include Brandi's old teammates from various world championship squads, like Kristine Lilly, Tisha Venturini Hoch and Julie Foudy.
Even though not every participating athlete lives in the Bay Area, everyone seems only a few degrees of separation from everyone else. It really feels like a local event that can affect each local girl who takes part. Chastain says this is just the beginning and she hopes the foundation can eventually grow into something that stages youth festivals across the country, all with the intention of giving young girls better role models.
"Every community needs support for young people," Chastain tells me. "Schools are overwhelmed with trying to teach and test, parents are working their tails off to make ends meet, everyone's trying to do their best. But we need a village. Every community has special people that can bond together. And for one girl, for just one afternoon, it's not really that long. And a great thing is, it can have a lasting impression. A little goes a long way."