Danny Aviles, liberal studies ’07
, has taken his passions and turned them into his profession. A soccer player since childhood, he has combined his love for soccer and teaching to form Football for the World Foundation USA (FFTW). Born in Chicago, Ill. and raised in Menlo Park, Calif., Danny developed his love for the game from his parents, Jose Luis and Aida, who both played soccer up until last year when they retired. Danny is a true Chapman global citizen, having traveled to six continents, fulfilling a promise he made to himself to travel to at least one country per year after graduation. Read on to learn about how FFTW helps underserved children around the globe (you can click
to support the children of FFTW) and to discover Danny’s advice on following your dreams! Don’t forget to check out the awesome photo gallery at the end of this blog.
What inspired you to found Football for the World Foundation USA?
: Starting a nonprofit where I could help vulnerable youth through the game of football (soccer) has been a dream of mine since I was a student at Chapman. This means combining two passions of mine—coaching and teaching.
As a kid, I learned how to play the game of soccer the same way the kids we help learned the game. I spent the summer between third and fourth grade in my dad’s hometown, Progreso, Mexico. There, I played soccer every single day for two-and-a-half months from 8 a.m. until 10 p.m., only stopping to eat and complete my summer reading. I played on dirt fields and in the streets using bricks or sticks or shoes for goals—basically anything we could find.
The four summers I spent in Progreso were some of the best summers of my life, and it was all because of football and the friends I made because of the game. I realized how fortunate I was at the end of every summer/beginning of the school year when our recreational/club soccer leagues would start and we’d go out and play on these amazing grass fields, have coaches and practices, unlimited access to soccer equipment (balls, cones, etc.), weekly games with snacks at the end of each quarter, end-of-the-year pizza parties, and best of all—team jerseys. I wanted all of my friends down in Progreso to have the same experience I was having. I wanted them to be part of the team.
What was the process like in creating Football for the World Foundation?
: To begin, it was nice to have the starting point and support team in place from the Canadian side. The CAN and USA team worked together with resources, such as the website and social media outlets, and shared ideas for future events in the USA based on what they (the Canadian team) had done already.
Forming a nonprofit in the USA required plenty of research and was just an idea for a year or two before actively pulling the trigger after making sure the public support was there to be sustainable.
Board involvement was big—having key pieces/experts in each field of finance, law and programming. We worked closely with lawyers to create bylaws and necessary supporting documents to move through the process successfully. The biggest piece was outlining our projects and what it was we would be accomplishing. Again, with the Canadian team in place and after conducting multiple donation drives, it was easy to articulate what we wanted to do because we had seen equipment donations, pitch renovations, and development clinics be effective firsthand already.
After the 501(c)(3) application was submitted, it was simply a waiting game to hear back. The process has been streamlined in more recent years, so the turnaround time is shorter. But we were still cautious about getting our hopes up and were bracing ourselves to wait to hear anything for a few months. Receiving the approval letter was thrilling and incredible. There was a rush and encouraging feeling of accomplishment and positive energy that day throughout the whole organization.
What role did your Chapman experience play in the creating of your foundation?
: Playing soccer at Chapman was something that will forever have an impact on my life. I created some amazing friendships with teammates that, to this day, I can call best friends. We’re like family. Even now that we’re a year-and-a-half away from being 10 years removed from walking across the stage at Chapman to grab our diploma, we still find a way to play soccer together. Our skills may be vanishing but we’ll always be teammates. Four of us even went to Brazil last year to attend the World Cup together.
My mindset/upbringing and Chapman’s vision of creating global citizens were a perfect match. I admired professors like Dr. Luiz Ortiz-Franco, Dr. Paul Apodaca and Professor Emerita, Donna Cucunato, and their teaching methods. I really appreciate them helping me to think outside the box.
I always tell people who ask me about my experience at Chapman that my four years there helped prepare me for the “real world” in so many ways. Whether it was my corporate sales job, my middle school teaching job or time working in Gaborone, Botswana for a friend’s Mobile Health nonprofit organization, my time at Chapman helped me make the most of all these experiences.
What is Football for the World’s mission and how does it help underserved children across the globe?
: Our mission is to improve the quality of life of children through the game of football. By creating an avenue for children to participate in the game of football, their quality of life is directly impacted. By playing and training in interactive and character-building programs, children are given the opportunity to improve their physical and emotional well-being, interpersonal relationship skills, personal development, and are also given a chance to create their own self-determination in whatever situation they may find themselves in. Football is the one sport that has the power to bring people from all four corners of the globe together, which makes it one of the most powerful tools on planet earth. It doesn’t matter from which ethnic background you come from, your religious beliefs or where you live, one ball has the power to bring people from all walks of life together to create change and enable children to become leaders in their own communities
The children gain general exercise and health benefits from being active. They gain a nutritional impact by receiving water and snack/meal when attending a FFTW session (in Uganda). We do community days and health education engagement. In the past in Uganda, FFTW has assisted with Volunteer Uganda’s HIV/AIDS Day, where the community is invited out and receives condoms and are taught how to use them effectively, along with other health-related activities.
FFTW has explored partnering with existing organizations that tackle specific issues, like malaria, by providing mosquito nets, etc. We will continue to seek as many partnerships of experts in their field and bring them in to speak and educate locals on the topic.
We aim to provide general health and hygiene. In the future, FFTW plans to implement additional community days on this topic, where we can provide soap and other supplies, along with other activities. This topic will be heavily expanded on as the organization grows and we learn more about the habits and processes of people in each respective community we work in.
How have your global travels informed Football for the World Foundation and where you are now? What did you learn about yourself and the world through traveling?
: When I graduated from Chapman, I made myself a promise that I would visit a new country every year for the rest of my life. So far I have kept that promise and then some—I have the travel bug and I can’t seem to shake it. To me, there is something exciting about arriving at the airport in Manila, Dar es Salaam, Rio de Janeiro, etc. and having to figure things out on your own while outside of your comfort zone.
The biggest thing I learned about myself through traveling has been how resourceful I can be—especially in my travels where I’ve been on my own. There have been many situations where something does not go according to my plans and I’ve had to figure out a way to make things work, as stressful as things got sometimes on the road.
(I’ve also learned a lot about myself by) interacting with strangers who could become your new best friend and tour guide during your visit. Being able to find your own pace when traveling helps you forget about the little things (phone, internet, social media).
The most important lesson I’ve learned from traveling around all but one continent has been how similar we all are! Our taste in music, food, sports, etc. may all be polar opposites, but the things we go through in life—our experiences, the ups the downs, the good times and bad times—make us way more similar than people will ever know if they don’t go out and try to see the world. I always tell my friends that the world is too big and beautiful to want to stay in a nook.
What advice do you have for Chapman students and recent alumni on how to follow their dreams?
: The only advice I can give is that following your dreams is one of, if not the
, fulfilling things you can do for yourself. It’s also one of the hardest things you can ever do. If it were easy, everyone would be doing it. Share your dreams with your close friends and your family—you might be surprised how much support you receive in return!
There is a certain sense of fear when you reach for your dreams because you worry about failing instead of focusing all of your energy on succeeding. As my best friend told me when I told him of my dreams, “Everything you’ve done in life up until this point has prepared you for this moment. Trust in yourself and your abilities, and do not be afraid to ask for help if you get stuck.” It was these reassuring words that made me realize I had nothing to lose and everything to gain!
It’s important to serve others for many reasons. By helping others, you gain a new perspective. Volunteering to serve individuals who are in tough situations, but who are still hanging in there, will help you value and appreciate what you have. Helping others and volunteering also helps you develop and grow as a person. Making a difference in someone’s life will have a long-lasting effect on who you are and what you value in life. A smile and a “thank you” from a total stranger or a child you are helping will be all you need to get you to continue to come back and help out.
How can individuals help Football for the World USA and the children it serves?
You can donate! Tax write-off receipts will be sent directly to the donor. Our website is updated frequently with local events that FFTW hosts across the USA including small-sided tournaments, pick-up leagues or happy hour events. The timing of these events will vary by location. Here is our
for more information and our
What else do you enjoy besides teaching and soccer?
: Besides being a huge sports fan (not just soccer—go Raiders, Warriors and Stanford!), I also enjoy being outdoors, going on hikes, and have recently started getting into yoga and meditation. I have a long way to go in both.
When I’m not traveling, working or exercising, I spend my time trying to improve my cooking skills or lack thereof. I have a passion for food, which is what makes traveling that much more fun for me. Tasting things I’ve never heard of or eating things I never thought I would has been quite the adventure.
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