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Starfinder Foundation to honor Ray Gaddis, other community leaders who align with their mission this week

The annual Cocktails with a Kick fundraiser will be a virtual multi-day event this year

Stafinder Foundation

Starfinder Foundation’s annual Cocktails with a Kick fundraiser, like so many events that have occurred in the past year, will look completely different without an in-person component but the message will be much the same for an organization entering its 20th year serving the community.

“We decided to take people in the community that are making a difference and align with our mission and our guiding principles and said how about we have them talk about Starfinder from their perspective,” executive director Andrea Rodgers said. “It was a really great experience to get to this point to work with them and hear what they had to say about the organization, and why people support it and why they’re champions of the work we do.”

Rodgers said she couldn’t think of a better person in soccer to reflect the game as a powerful tool for youth development than honoree Ray Gaddis, who as timing would have it announced his retirement from the Philadelphia Union on Thursday. Gaddis will speak about his own upbringing in Indianapolis and the role mentors played in helping him achieve his dream.

“It’s really important for our kids, many of whom look like him, to look at him and say, okay, that could be me,” Rodgers said. “Not only just as a soccer player, but as a change agent who is having equity conversations, anti-racism conversations and things like that not just in MLS but in society. Off the pitch as I’m learning to say.”

The event will also be honoring Tiffany Tavarez, senior vice president and business solutions leader at Wells Fargo Advisors, Abigail Ellis, executive director of MENTOR Independence Region and Calean Anderson, a Starfinder alum and coach-mentor.

The fundraiser is a first for Rodgers, who was took over as executive director in November, succeeding Heidi Warren, who relocated with her family to Australia, her husband’s home country.

A Drexel University LeBow College of Business grad, Rodgers has an extensive background in the nonprofit world in Philadelphia.

“There really are so many opportunities for kids to find a wrong path,” Rodgers said. “The soccer part is super exciting and the fact that once they’re in these doors they’re not only getting some physical activity that’s helping them, but they’re really shaping themselves into contributing members of the community.”

Starting a new job during a pandemic has had its challenges and the organization has had to adjust many of its programs, but Rodgers said she and the organization have followed the lead of the youth they serve, who she said are “the most flexible and adaptable members of our society.”

“I think we’ve truly been able to respond to emerging needs,” Rodgers said.

Her vision moving forward for Starfinder is to expand the reach of the work the Manyunk-based organization is doing, combining soccer with mentorship and youth development.

“I really do think more people need to know what’s happening for Starfinder,” she said. “Part of my vision is focusing on how to increase our brand awareness, focusing on how we can take what we do inside the doors or even in our community partnerships and really build capacity from within so that we can scale this program. We know that 200,000 kids are registered in the school district of Philadelphia; we see just under 1,000 each year so it’s certainly an opportunity for us.”

Register for Cocktails with a Kick on the Starfinder Foundation website.