By Peter Schwartz
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In soccer, the goalkeeper is the last line of defense. The other 10 players in front of him do what they can to prevent the other team from a scoring chance. But if it’s one of those chances in a match when a shot on goal must be stopped, the netminder is often asked to put the game on his shoulders and in his hands.
Last season, there was no better goalkeeper in Major League Soccer than the Red Bulls’ Luis Robles, as he was named the MLS Goalkeeper of the Year and one of the league’s Best XI players. He has helped the Red Bulls win two of the last three Supporters Shields, which goes to the team with the best regular season record.
This year, Robles and company are in contention for the Eastern Conference title, but the Red Bulls’ outstanding keeper is not only making saves to help his team, he’s also helping a worthy cause.
The Red Bulls have partnered with Hackensack University Medical Center to launch the “Tackle Kids Cancer” campaign, and Robles is the official spokesperson for the initiative. Robles will donate $100 for every save he makes during the campaign, and the Red Bulls will match that for a total of $200 per save.
“What I’m hoping to do is, using whatever popularity or platform that I’ve received playing with the New York Red Bulls, to bring attention to a real need,” said Robles. “The real need is that there is necessary funding that’s required to not only find a cure for kids with pediatric cancer, but to also work towards the idea of eliminating it altogether.”
As an organization, the Red Bulls are putting all of their efforts behind this initiative. Hackensack University Medical Center has been an important partner for the Red Bulls over the years, so the team was more than willing to join in this effort. They also couldn’t have asked for a better ambassador for the initiative than their outstanding man between the pipes.
“The entire organization could not be any prouder of Luis for stepping up as the voice for this campaign,” said Red Bulls general manager Marc de Grandpre.
“During his time with the club, he’s been and continues to be a teammate who has a great understanding of our responsibility within the community.”
Since the campaign kicked off July 24, Robles has notched eight saves for a total of $1,600 for the campaign.
Well, maybe that total should be nine saves and $1,800.
On July 21, three days before an impressive 4-1 win over rival NYCFC, Robles appeared on Fox 5’s “Good Day New York” to help promote the match. He was interviewed by veteran sports reporter Tina Cervasio, who also serves as the host for Red Bulls telecasts on the MSG Network. Cervasio came up with a great idea.
After the interview, Tina thought it would be fun to take a shot on Robles. So Luis made his way in front of one of the goals and prepared for Cervasio’s attempt. Tina kicked the ball right at Robles, who didn’t even have to move to make the save. By making it so easy, perhaps Cervasio should be making a donation to the charity.
“Yes, Tina should be donating for that because she shot it right at the keeper,” said Robles. “I was hoping for her own sake that she would shoot for the corner so she would have the exhilaration of scoring a goal.”
Hey, Tina, get your checkbook out!
Funds are also being raised through FanAngel, a web-based platform that is challenging and incentivizing affiliated youth camps to help raise money. The camp that raises the most money during the course of the campaign will be treated to a private practice led by Robles at the Red Bulls’ practice facility.
As of Sunday night, a total of $16,695 with sponsor-matched pledges have been raised.
“The Red Bulls have an outstanding track record of community service in the tri-state area,” said FanAngel vice president Oliver Davis Urman. “We are proud to be partnering with them on the ‘Tackle Kids Cancer’ campaign to provide more opportunities for their fans to get involved in the work they are doing off the pitch.”
There will be a variety of exclusive prizes that will available to fans that donate through FanAngel, including game-worn gear and signed merchandise from Robles, as well as others from the soccer community. Former Red Bulls defender Matt Miazga, who now plays for Chelsea, has already donated a ball signed by all the players on his new team. There are also teams from around Major League Soccer that have donated signed jerseys.
One hundred percent of the funds from “Tackle Kids Cancer” will help dedicated clinicians and researchers make strides by advancing research and providing children access to the highest level of care. Essential clinical care, unique support services and groundbreaking cancer research are needed to find a cure.
Robles and his wife, Cara, recently welcomed their third child into the world with the birth of their daughter Emily. For Robles, this initiative is very important to him
“I can’t say that I have a direct link to pediatric cancer,” said Robles. “But I think when I look at my own situation, I can’t help but feel a sense of gratitude that’s overwhelming in my heart that I have three kids that are able to do the things that they do.”
Robles and his wife have always been involved with charitable efforts. So when this initiative was presented to him, Robles jumped at it. He said he feels a sense of responsibility to help bring awareness and attention to this worthy cause.
“We’ve raised quite a bit of money just in the performance or the incentive-based donations,” said Robles. “What we’re hoping to do is create more awareness and invite other people that are not only season ticket holders or fans of the Red Bulls.”
As the Red Bulls continue their quest for an MLS Cup championship, they look to Robles to make that critical save at the right time to help secure victories. But during the “Tackle Kids Cancer” campaign, many of those saves will go toward a more important cause — to the awareness of pediatric cancer and fundraising efforts for research and treatment.
To donate or to get more information on the initiative, visit http://www.fanangel.com/campaigns/56.
Don’t forget to follow Pete on Twitter at @pschwartzcbsfan. Also follow @luisrobles1984, @New YorkRedBulls and @TackleKidsCancr.