LA Galaxy players help build Reading Garden at Annalee Avenue Elementary School in Carson

CARSON, Calif. – LA Galaxy players are accustomed to playing on perfectly manicured fields day in and day out at both training and in their games. But on Tuesday afternoon, five Galaxy players helped make a local school’s garden look equally as beautiful.

Annalee Avenue Elementary School in Carson was the recipient of a new Reading Garden at their school after winning the fifth annual Reading Garden Challenge, which was hosted by the LA Galaxy Foundation and The Home Depot Center Charitable Foundation. Students at the school logged more than 54,000 hours of reading Earth Day related literature over a 30-day period in February and March to win the new Reading Garden at their school. As a result the school’s courtyard now features vegetable gardens for the kids to tend to while also promoting healthy eating while new layers of paint and a number of colorful flowers were planted throughout the shady courtyard.

WATCH: Rafael Garcia discusses the Reading Garden

What was once an underused space is now a vibrant and fun area for students to enjoy while reading and learning.

LA Galaxy players Colin Clark, Greg Cochrane, Rafael Garcia, Charlie Rugg and Marcelo Sarvas wasted no time getting their hands dirty by planting the final impatiens, a common yet colorful garden plant, in barrels painted by students and volunteers prior to the board-cutting ceremony. Even though the Reading Green was constructed to reward the students for all of their nightly reading, encouraging environmental awareness was equally just as important a message to send.

“Especially on Earth Day, it’s good to show these children that we need to take care of the earth,” Galaxy midfielder Colin Clark said. “The way that we’re taking care of it right now can be a lot better and if we want it to be here well beyond our time then we need to put in our work and take care of it now.”

Clark, the father of an 11-month-old, doesn’t spend much time in the garden with his son but always finds time to read to him. “A couple of his favorites are the pop-up, peekaboo books so we’re kind of on that kick.”

Rafael Garcia, whose son is in preschool, also makes sure to spend time on a nightly basis reading with his boy. “It’s something he actually likes, I think he takes after him mom,” the Galaxy midfielder said jokingly.  “He’s learning and it’s crazy how we put him in preschool and the amount he’s learned thus far is incredible. I read to him at least a few nights a week and it really helps.”

Even though not all Galaxy players have children of their own, they still know the importance of the lifelong skill that is reading. Just ask midfielder Greg Cochrane. “As a kid, people always say they don’t like reading but I’ve realized once I graduated from college that I like reading in my free time. It helps expanding your knowledge, it’s important to keep the mind going.”

Cochrane spent part of his afternoon alongside forward Charlie Rugg reading Dr. Seuss’s The Cat in the Hat to a small group of wide-eyed students listening intently. Clark, Sarvas and Garcia handed out stickers to the student body at Annalee Ave. Elementary until Garcia picked up a copy of the children’s book Viking Ships at Sunrise and helped children sound out the words as they read it back to the midfielder. It was obvious the players were genuinely enjoying giving back to the kids and community, having just as much fun as the students themselves.  

“It’s for a good cause and it’s important to show the children that we care about things that they usually don’t see us doing outside of soccer,” said Sarvas, the Galaxy midfielder who is also a father. “It’s important to show them this and build on their mind and heart, the things for the future when they become older.”

Even though Sarvas and his teammates helped to pot the final plants, 65 volunteers from The Home Depot, The Home Depot Center and the American Heart Association Teaching Gardens, as well as parents and teachers from Annalee Ave. Elementary built the elevated vegetable gardens, painted and stained picnic tables to give the garden an intimate setting.  A local Starbucks, located on the corner of Avalon Blvd. and Del Amo Blvd. in Carson, provided breakfast for the volunteers with the Salt Creek Grille in El Segundo providing lunch for students and volunteers.

The cozy outdoor space for the students would not have possible without their help and because of all their hard work, students at the Carson elementary school now have their own private space dedicated towards bettering their mind, body and spirits. More photos from the event below: