Under an overcast of rain clouds, 178 children gathered at the Fort Meade USO Center for a soccer clinic. A few minutes after 5 p.m., Shawn Sabia, the center’s manager of operations, walked up to the field to grab the children’s attention.
“Good morning, Fort Meade!” he shouted. “I want everyone to scream at the top of their lungs!”
After getting the crowd of young players fired up, Sabia took a moment to thank them and their parents for “signing up” to be military families.
The Fort Meade USO Center partnered with Leidos and D.C. United to host the D.C. United and Leidos Children’s Soccer Clinic for children ages 5 through 12. Six players from the MLS team showed youngsters basic drills and played soccer-focused games.
This is the fifth year that D.C. United worked with Leidos to host the clinic at Fort Meade. Before the clinic started, Maureen Galkin, D.C. United’s director of partnership marketing, talked about how the team’s partnership started.
“We wanted to give back to the community,” Galkin said. “We have a week-long [program], with the clinic kicking it off every year. We do different events throughout the week, concluding with Armed Forces Appreciation Night.”
The clinic, which lasted from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., was also catered by Mission BBQ. Children also had the opportunity to meet the players and receive autographs after the clinic.
While the weather looked bleak, USO Supervisor Nick Soprano remained confident that the clinic would go on.
“I’m super excited — families started reaching out to us before we even started planning this [event],” Soprano said. “It’s just a good feeling.”
After rallying the children, Sabia shared his thoughts on giving back to the community and thanking Fort Meade’s service members.
“It’s just the most amazing thing [to see these kids having fun],” Sabia said. “Military children are the unsung heroes. … Parents choose to sign up for the military and choose who they marry, [but] the kids have no choice whatsoever. It’s very important that we give back to them.”