By Bob Narang

The Rockford East and Rockford Guilford girls soccer teams made an effort to show that sports can lead to change in the community.

Normally, the E-Rabs and Vikings are battling for local bragging rights on the pitch, but this spring the two rivals banded together to raise money for the Family Justice Center in Rockford. Before the start of the East-Guilford matchup last week, the two teams presented a $500 check to the City of the Rockford to fund the Family Justice Center.

Each school won $250 from a music video contest a part of the PepsiCo Showdown, which is the largest high school soccer tournament in the country. The two programs combined their winnings to give a check to the Family Justice Center, which was presented before their game to Rockford mayor Tom McNamara.

Guilford junior forward Olivia Zediker admitted this helped her gain a different perspective to the importance of being involved in her community. 

“This meant a lot to me,” said Zediker, who is a member of the National Honor Society. “It feels so good to give back to those in need, because it’s always important to give back to others.

“It builds character, but more importantly a lot of people that go through (Family Justice) situations don’t always receive financial support and feel like outcasts. So we felt it was important to show that we’re here to help.”

East coach Priscilla Rivas noted that it was a special night because the programs were recognized by the City of Rockford for their work on and off the field. She said her program has made a point to be involved in the community to teach the players character and to give back in the form of time, fundraisers and money.

“The idea to give money to the city came about with both coaches (including Guilford coach Katie Barnett) doing research on different charities in the community,” Rivas said. “We decided to come together by choosing one where it could hopefully make a big impact to an organization that really is trying to help people in our community access services they need.

“It truly was a great night to come together with another area school and help the community. It was the night where the ladies became teammates off the field in the game of life.”

Sierra Kella, Family Justice Center Project Manager for the City of Rockford, was proud to see the competitors make a difference together.

“We want young people to hear the message – loud and clear – that you are never too young to make a difference,” Kellen said. “We think this is the start of a beautiful partnership, and we look forward to finding ways to continue to involve students in the creation of the Family Justice Center.”

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Bio on reporter: Bob Narang has been covering prep sports for the past 22 years. His work also appears in the Chicago Tribune, Athlon Sports and the DeKalb Daily Chronicle.