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Fort Wayne native DaMarcus Beasley conducts a soccer clinic Friday at Foster Park for kids from the Fort Wayne Boys & Girls Clubs.

Most of the children who attended Friday’s Boys & Girls Clubs event at Foster Park will probably remember an afternoon of soccer drills and games under the direction of Fort Wayne soccer legend DaMarcus Beasley and other representatives of the Fort Wayne Football Club.

But Friday was also an opportunity for the Fort Wayne Boys & Girls Clubs to celebrate a $20,000 donation from the Buffalo Wild Wings Foundation, which will help rebuild the club’s sports programs.

“We really value sports and understand what it does for a human being, build character and leadership, teamwork skills. And we have not been able to launch it in the way we would like,” Joe Jordan, president and CEO of Boys & Girls Clubs of Fort Wayne, said of the organization’s athletic offerings. “And then the pandemic hit, and that really put it on the back burner.”

The Buffalo Wild Wings Foundation has partnered with the Boys & Girls Clubs of America since 2013 to encourage and fund team sports for kids nationwide. Jordan said that the Fort Wayne club learned it had been chosen to receive the funds late last year.

“We have not been able to kick off all the programs that we want to, but this certainly is going to go a long way, so we’re excited about this,” Jordan said. “These partners are so critical to our mission, because we can’t do it alone. We love kids, building relationships with kids, but this helps us build a well-rounded education for our children.”

Jordan said that a successful sports program needs equipment such as balls and nets but also the support of a lot of attentive adults.

“You’ve got to meet kids where they are. You’ve got to make sure the kids are engaged at a high level, and once you get them engaged you can teach them soft skills,” Jordan said. “So when you get a soccer ball and a soccer field, there are some other things that you need to put around it, like caring, responsible adults. They have to come out here and administer the game and make sure these experiences are taken advantage of.”

Beasley has long-standing ties to the local Boys & Girls Clubs. His father, Henry, joined the organization as a van driver in his retirement. At one point, DaMarcus Beasley pointed to one of the Foster Park fields and laughingly said, “I scored a lot of goals over on that field.”

“Being able to be a part of the growth, not just of the game but the community itself, it’s important and it’s special, so that’s why I’m back here in Fort Wayne with my mom and my dad, trying to inspire these kids as much as I can,” Beasley said.

Beasley and Fort Wayne FC coach Mike Avery were among the adults leading kids through drills such as Sharks and Minnows and Red Light, Green Light.

“For us as a club, Fort Wayne FC, this is special. We enjoy coming out here and teaching the game of soccer,” Beasley told the assembled kids before they hit the fields. “But soccer is not just about what you can do with your feet, or if you’re a goalie what you can do with your hands. It’s about responsibility, it’s about discipline, it’s about teamwork. Soccer teaches all those different values, which we value for life.”

To that end, Beasley pointed out that it wasn’t just soccer coaches leading Friday’s activities.

“I wanted people that love the game of soccer but love to give back to the community,” Beasley said. “We have principals, we have real estate agents, we have restaurant and bar owners, we have people who work in Fort Wayne Community Schools. There’s a plethora of different areas that they work in, but they love the game of soccer. It’s not just about soccer, it’s about how we can inspire you guys to be great and dream big.”