HAWTHORNE, Calif. – Gyasi Zardes had a unique opportunity to give back to his beloved hometown of Hawthorne on Friday thanks to the LA Galaxy Foundation.
In an event sponsored by the Galaxy and partners Chevrolet, three new futsal courts and two murals were installed at Hawthorne Memorial Park. The event kicked off the Galaxy Foundation’s “Foundation Fridays” initiative, which will feature weekly community service events across Southern California throughout the 2016 season.
Hawthorne Memorial Park has particular importance for the Galaxy’s star striker, as he was repeatedly chased off the park’s tennis courts for playing soccer growing up. Now years later, Zardes had the opportunity to bring the beautiful game back to his hometown.
“Growing up here in Hawthorne, I remember playing on basketball courts, I remember playing on tennis courts, and now the community has a home to play soccer and enjoy it in the city of Hawthorne,” Zardes told an assembled crowd of several hundred. “I hope and pray that everyone enjoys this pitch. I know that it will make a positive impact in the community.”
Throughout the hour-long event, Zardes and his Galaxy teammates Steven Gerrard, A.J. DeLaGarza, and Baggio Husidic had an opportunity to interact with soccer players from across the city in a series of skill challenges at the new facility. But the highlight of the event was Zardes removing a “No Soccer Allowed” sign on the park gates, and replacing it with a new sign opening the courts for play.
The unveiling of the new futsal courts was only a portion of the event, however, as the Galaxy partnered with the City of Hawthorne and the DaVinci Schools to paint a pair of murals that depict civic pride and the beautiful game. One painting prominently featured Zardes in celebration alongside a launching rocket designed to signify Hawthorne-based aerospace company SpaceX.
“We wanted to reenergize this park,” Hawthorne Police Officer Chris Cognac, who worked closely with the Galaxy Foundation and Chevorlet on the park’s creation, said. “These tennis courts were not being used, so we had a dream to turn them into futsal courts...this gives kids a place to go. It’s a safe space for the people of our city.”
As he watched children play on the brand-new courts, Zardes admitted to being genuinely humbled by the experience.
“I can’t put this all into words. I spent most of my life here,” Zardes said. “To be able to participate in this is amazing. It’s a blessing and an honor.”