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On March 4, the U.S. Soccer Foundation hosted its biennial gala in a massive tent on the City Center parking lot. Last held at Gotham Hall in New York in 2008, the event, along with the soccer clinic held the next day, celebrated the U.S. Soccer Foundation’s efforts to use the sport as a vehicle for youth development and social change.
Aiming to create a space different from typical D.C. black-tie events, Bravo! Events by Design’s Nancy Shaffer opted to host 300 guests atop a faux turf soccer field in a 16,400-square-foot tent provided by Main Attractions. The only problem? Due to Washington’s record snowfall this winter, City Center’s parking lot was used as a dumping location and was covered in 15-foot mounds of snow just a week before the event. The tools required to ready the space included 15 dump trucks, three front loaders, a fire truck, and a snow melter.
According to the Foundation’s marketing and communications coordinator, Meredith McClure, the space was worth the trouble, as it gave the organization “the freedom to brand the event in a way that showcased our mission,” while also enabling them to “maximize the venue” by hosting a clinic in the tent the following day, where 65 children between the ages of 9 and 11 played soccer with D.C. United players and First Lady Michelle Obama.
The event began with a V.I.P. reception with the evening’s honoree, Desmond Tutu, in the Capitol Building while a simultaneous cocktail hour took place in the tent. During the dinner program, M.C. Drew Carey presented Tutu and fellow honorees Washington Freedom owners Maureen and John Hendricks with custom-created hand-blown awards custom created by Dale Chihuly awards.
The gala raised funds to build a soccer field in Southeast Washington D.C. and to support a soccer program in South Africa through Grassroots Soccer. Guests left around 8 p.m. with swag in tow—lead sponsor Adidas provided drawstring backpacks full of mini soccer balls, D.C. United hats, and more.