The days that involve something that’s never happened before tend to be pretty special. University of New Mexico women’s soccer coach Kit Vela recently had one of those days.
On Tuesday, Radiology Associates of Albuquerque gave Vela’s Lobo soccer team a donation in the amount of $6,000 to go to advertising and promotions.
It is the single largest fundraising check ever given to the UNM women’s soccer program and a large number for any women's Olympic sport fundraising venture, Vela said.
The money, in conjunction with the fundraising assistance that the Baird family has given the program through its Vernon’s Hidden Valley Steakhouse and Prime restaurant in Los Ranchos, has been a critical area of support, Vela said.
“As a women’s soccer coach, I couldn’t be more proud of the community support we’ve been given,” she said. “Our program couldn’t function without it.”
Vernon’s has played host to Lobo women’s soccer fundraising events at its restaurant, and Vernon’s events have raised about $40,000. Vernon’s work, coupled with other team functions raising an additional $10,000, has brought the fundraising efforts to around $50,000 total. Those funds represent the largest amount of money that a local establishment has helped the program raise, Vela said.
“Fundraising goes to our daily essentials,” she said. “We are extremely thankful and grateful to all those who have participated and helped sustain our program. We want to encourage others to help contribute so that we can continue to strive to be a program in which the community can take great pride.”
Besides winning Mountain West championships in 2010 and 2011, the MW tournament championship in ’11and playing in two NCAA tournaments against national champions Notre Dame (2010) and UCLA (2011), Vela’s programs have been among the conference’s leaders in the classroom over the past 13 years.
The team finished the 2014 spring semester with a 3.63 grade-point average and had a conference-leading 15 members earn Mountain West Scholar-Athlete awards for the 2013-14 year (to be eligible, student-athletes must carry a 3.5 GPA for consecutive semesters and have played in varsity competition).
The Lobos also had 17 of their 34 players earn Academic All-MW honors last fall.
Vela says the program has several fundraising events upcoming in connection with Vernon’s, with Sandiago Mexican Grill and with youth soccer clubs participating in various clinics.
“My coaching staff and I sincerely wish to thank everyone who has participated or donated in our fundraising efforts,” Vela said. “That generosity has been instrumental to our team’s success over the years.”
The team will continue on its quest in 2014 with a dynamic, youthful group of Lobos – playing with heart and soul, from fall practice check-in on Aug. 6 to the last whistle in December!