BRONX, NY – On Thursday, November 12, 300 professionals gathered at the Midtown Loft and Terrace to celebrate and support the South Bronx United’s programs reaching over 800 youth in the community. In all they, helped South Bronx United raise $78,000 at its 5th Annual Benefit. 100% of the net proceeds will go towards sustaining and expanding the nonprofit organization’s youth development programs that combine soccer with mentoring, academic enrichment, college prep, leadership development, and support services.
Jimmy Conrad, former MLS defender and current host of KickTV, kicked off the evening by interviewing the special guest, New York City FC defender Chris Wingert. Jimmy and Chris spoke on the importance of soccer as a medium for growth, reflecting on both of their experiences with the game. Wingert, a 12-year veteran of Major League Soccer, closed by commenting, “Organizations like [South Bronx United] are essential for strengthening communities and equipping youth with the tools they need to follow their passions.”
Executive Director Andrew So followed with remarks on South Bronx United’s progress over the last year and the organization’s goals for expansion and improving outcomes for South Bronx and immigrant youth. He shared, “On the one hand, I hope that South Bronx United will be able to grow from serving 800 boys and girls to serving thousands. On the other hand, we need to go from a 94% college enrollment rate among our SBU Academy alumni to a 94% college graduation rate.”
South Bronx and immigrant youth face immense challenges growing up. Yet, South Bronx United has a proven track record for making a difference in the lives of these young student-athletes. One of these youth, Gnim Bazim, shared his story through a video presentation produced by Amanda Berg and then made a speech that captivated the room.
At three years old, Gnim immigrated to the Bronx from Togo with his parents and sister. Gnim says, “Besides the challenges we faced as a family, as I became older I started to realize the broader adversities in our community. The reality is that my neighborhood where I grew up in the Bronx has been and is defined by a cycle of poor education, poverty, and violence.”
Gnim enrolled in the SBU program at 12 years old and would grow to become a SBU Youth Council member, and SBU 97 Strikers team captain. He is now a high school junior at Mercersburg Academy, a Pennsylvania boarding school, where he attends on a scholarship. Says Gnim, “I would never have expected to be considered a leader and role model to my peers all around me, whether on the soccer field or in the classroom in the Bronx or at a school in Pennsylvania. I have come a long way, and when I look back, I can simply say that South Bronx United is the reason why.”
Throughout the evening’s program, guests could also be found dining on Dos Toros burritos or sipping on drinks provided by The Bronx Brewery, Tanteo Tequila, and Hudson Whiskey. Other sponsors included Two Sigma Investments, Barclays Capital, DDB,InterFysio, and Growth Through Sport. An auction and raffle featured items donated from various companies and institutions including New York City FC, the New York Yankees, the FC Bayern Munich Fan Club of NYC, Relish Caterers, and the Late Show with Stephen Colbert.
South Bronx United has served the community youth since 2009. Starting from a group of 15 boys, the organization has grown to work with over 800 boys and girls through a myriad of programs that help the youth build character, teamwork, and leadership so that they can succeed in high school, careers, their communities and beyond. The success of the benefit will help South Bronx United continue to promote educational achievement, health and wellness, and character development through activities on and off the soccer field, and to unite a diverse group of individuals and an incredibly diverse community toward common positive goals.
For more information on South Bronx United, please visit www.southbronxunited.org or call (718) 404-9281.
Photos by Hakim Kabbaj