Good Sports: Rodrigo Santos

FRESNO, Calif.

"I just really wanted for the kids in my area to have another opportunity," said Santos. "Instead of going way up there to North Fresno, where there's a lot of big soccer teams, to just come out here and play."

So the 18-year-old Santos applied for a Building Healthy Communities mini-grant of $1,000 knowing he could give the local youth something he never got in elementary school.

"I just started playing soccer not that long ago, probably in 8th grade," explained Santos. "These kids are playing already in like the 6th grade. And that's a lot of skills they're going to build up."

The mini-grant was passed in July and Santos went to work. He bought cones and posts for drills, soccer balls for the kids, and of course uniforms, knowing the impact looking good could have on the kids feeling good.

"If the BHC wasn't a part of this then none of it would have happened," Santos said. "Where I live in this area, we don't have that big of an income, so that $1,000 is a lot of money for this part of the area."

Santos isn't only teaching his team about soccer. He's teaching life's lessons of friendship, compassion and giving back.

"Sometimes when we trip and fall he comes running and comes to support us," said 12-year-old Juan Lara, a West Fresno United midfielder. "We have someone to be there for us."

And the best part of it all: There could be a whole new group of Rodrigo Santos' popping up in the next few years, making an impression on the local youth.

"They don't have to live through the troubles that – whatever they around here in West Fresno goes on," said Santos. "Maybe its gangs, maybe it's tagging, whatever. They're coming here to play, they're having fun, and they're always staying safe in this area."

And it really can't get better than that.

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