‘To uplift and empower’: Former MLS player and Indy native brings mini-pitch to east side community

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INDIANAPOLIS– A former MLS player and Indianapolis native teamed up with community leaders to unveil a new soccer field with an important goal.

Oscar Charleston Park is now home to the first of its kind mini-pitch honoring “Black Players for Change” and former MLS star Ray Gaddis.

“I’ve seen how one ball has brought together an entire community,” Gaddis said. “Different people with different backgrounds and ethnicities coming together to play this beautiful game.”

Gaddis partnered with Indy Parks and the US Soccer Foundation to share the game he loves with kids across his hometown of Indianapolis.

“To uplift and empower people who look like myself,” Gaddis said.

“Where I come from, I haven’t gotten to experience anything like this,” said Ke’Vonte Brown, a sophomore at KIPP College Prep. “This is something that can bring us together.”

“This is a great experience to learn something new,” Brown said. “How they play the game. They can teach me a few things, I can teach them a few things and we can have a bond.”

Brown says the mini-pitch gives him and his friends a positive outlet.

“There have been a lot of tragic deaths and losing people,” Brown said. “We haven’t been able to see smiles on our faces because of what we’ve been going through now with COVID.”

Gaddis says the mini-pitch will increase access to safe places to play in underserved areas.

“First, it exposes them to new realities and endless opportunities,” Gaddis said. “Second, it allows them to exert positive energy in a positive manner.”

“In communities like this, you never see structures like this,” said Allen Wright, a junior at KIPP. “You see basketball courts or baseball fields such as that. I think this is really great.”

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