By James Kay
When the Black Lives Matter movement sparked a global racial reckoning over the last seven weeks, Adam Stern wanted to help fight the good fight at the local level.
As the regional commissioner of the River Forest Youth Soccer League, he reflected on the state of his organization and decided to pitch to the board the idea of including Maywood residents in the league.
"After George Floyd's murder, my family and I attended marches and listened to all of the local leaders discuss racial inequality," said Stern. "At that point, I had the idea to see if Maywood had a soccer league and if it would want to join our [league]. Once I found out they didn't, it was a no-brainer that we should reach out and try to make it happen."
Earlier this month, River Forest and Maywood's village boards passed a twin village covenant to help forge a greater bond between the two communities. With that in mind, Stern wanted to extend that to youth soccer.
In a time where financial security isn't a given, the River Forest Youth Soccer League has offered to cover fees for Maywood residents who can't afford the expenses needed to be a part of it.
The league is able to do this partially due to the spring season being canceled. According to Stern, 75 percent of the people who paid for the spring season decided to donate the money to the league instead of requesting a refund.
"We have a little bit of money now to use on getting Maywood residents involved because of that," said Stern. "I have also had people from River Forest donate so that fees can be waived for Maywood residents to participate even if they can't pay the fees. It's been great."
Maywood Trustee Miguel Jones is excited to give the community a chance to be a part of a soccer league, but he believes there are still concerns that need to be addressed.
"We are known for producing a lot of great athletes," said Jones. "I think this is a great opportunity for our youth to be a part of one of the most popular sports in the world. But there are things that I want to see from Maywood and River Forest in general that we need to figure out."
Jones outlined concerns over COVID-19 safety precautions, transportation and the two towns trying to become more familiar with one another.
"[Maywood and River Forest] are two different towns," said Jones. "I think this is an extremely nice gesture that I would encourage Maywood's youth to take advantage of, but there is the barrier of familiarity. There's still a few more things that are the main issues that they might face in order to fully be able to participate full-throttle, like getting to know the coaches and the schedule."
Something that Jones thinks is integral to having the two communities make the connection work is having residents from both villages come to each other's areas. This would include having games potentially being played in Maywood.
"I would definitely like to see games played in Maywood," said Jones. "We have the parks for it. Again, this is an opportunity to grow the sport here and we have not only a large Black population but an equally and growing Hispanic community as well.
"What I would like to see from Maywoodians is having parents and neighbors encourage our youth to participate in this so that we aren't putting the onus on the students. We are committed to building bridges with our neighboring town and that starts with participation."
Answer Book 2019
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