As a way to give back to the Minnesota community, United has established a partnership with Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare for the 2016 season. The team will not only visit patients in the hospital, but also host a patient family from GCSH at every home game this season.
MNUFC’s Director of Public Relations Eric Durkee is “really excited to set up this partnership. Any time you can reach out to the community and help get kids and their families in touch with the team, it makes what we’re doing at the club even more impactful.” After Wednesday morning’s practice, Durkee (or, as Jamie Watson calls him, “the braintrust of Minnesota United”) joined midfielders Watson and Danny Cruz at Gillette’s to hang out with patients. Immediately, Twitter was flooded with posts from the families, including dozens of pictures of smiling children between the two wingers.
“It’s one of the best things about being a professional athlete,” Watson remarked after morning training. “It’s not even a question of if – I get excited about doing it. We’re completely normal guys, but for some reason kids think we’re big deals. So we’re just gonna run with it. I have a brother who grew up with Cerebral Palsy, and he’s in a wheelchair at 31. I’ve seen the impact that people can have, so if I can impact these kids’ lives, no matter their situations, or if I can take away an hour of their day and make it way better despite the other stuff they’re going through for the other 23, it’s a no-brainer.”
Cruz, meanwhile, is no stranger to community outreach. According to an article from www.wasecurity.com, in 2011 he was a finalist for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Man of the Year. That year, he raised more funds than any Houston Dynamo player, highlighted by a fundraising event called “Cruzin’ for a Cure,” which was capped by a bachelor auction with Cruz and ten teammates up for bidding. His work was also rewarded with the MLS WORKS Humanitarian of the Month for this effort.
According to Durkee, the team plans to visit the various Twin Cities locations “as frequently as possible; probably twice a month” through the 2016. You can support the Saint Paul-based children’s healthcare here. This unique opportunity has proven to impact the players as much as the children. While Watson looked to help “make a memory that’ll last their entire lifetime,” he later remarked that the day “impacted me 1000x more” on Twitter.