Soccer club helps refugee children break through hardship

A team from the Break-Thru Soccer Club represents the club’s aim to be a positive influence in the lives of underprivileged and refugee children. (Cheri Andrus)

The Break-Thru Soccer Club in Salt Lake City is a group dedicated to helping refugee and underprivileged children overcome the trials they face in life.

Dry Creek Charity officially created the club in 2012 as a humanitarian project and now manages 35 soccer teams made up of children from refugee and local communities in the Salt Lake City area. Dry Creek Charity Managing Director Brian Rasmussen said the Break-Thru Soccer Club aims to incentivize the children who participate to build leadership and character, become part of a team and do well in all areas of their lives.

“We thought of Break-Thru as breaking through some of the barriers and challenges that kids face, especially refugee or underserved youth in our community,” Rasmussen said.

The club also makes a difference in the community by providing job opportunities for some of the adult refugees, who receive a modest stipend for helping coach the soccer teams, according to Rasmussen. Break-Thru Soccer coach Omar Osman, a Somalian refugee, said he enjoys coaching because he has seen the club make a big difference in the lives of the children who participate.

“When they start this program, the kids change,” Osman said. “They get involved with soccer and get out of bad groups. It helps a lot.”

Children from the Break-Thru Soccer Club run toward the soccer ball during one of their games. (Cheri Andrus)

Rasmussen said he has seen children in the Break-Thru Soccer Club improve academically and behaviorally and become more unified within their communities. He said the club also brings together the locals who participate with the refugee children and helps them become more aware of the refugees in their community. Rasmussen said getting involved with the club has been a great experience for his four sons.

“I love the fact that they get to see life through a different lens,” Rasmussen said. “They’ve been more grateful for the opportunities they’ve had.”

Break-Thru board member Scott Langone got involved with the soccer club about two years ago after seeing a billboard for it. He said out of all his experiences coaching soccer in four different parts of the country, helping with the club’s soccer tournaments is the best feeling he’s ever gotten.

“I walk away from those days going, ‘Wow, this was a tremendous, awesome day and I can’t wait to do another one,'” Langone said. “Just being a part of it and seeing the smiles on the kids’ faces and all the fun they’re having — there’s nothing better.”

Cheri Andrus, who also serves on the board for the Break-Thru Soccer Club, said being involved with the club and seeing the difference it makes for the refugee children is “exhilarating.”

“I enjoy seeing some of the Muslim girls out there playing in their skinny jeans and with their Muslim headdress on and just kicking that ball and running around,” Andrus said. “I really see the difference that sports can make in peoples’ lives, so I was very happy to get to sit on the board for Break-Thru Soccer.”

Rasmussen describes his involvement managing and directing the Break-Thru Soccer Club as “a life-changing opportunity.”

“The bottom line is I’ve seen smiles on kids’ faces and kids develop, grow, build character and leadership skills and a sense of belonging and pride in a good way,” Rasmussen said. “If that’s the case — if at least kids are smiling and being busy and doing good things — then I’m happy.”

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