Schirra recognized as an MVP by Patriots

By Adam Betz

As the soccer world buzzes about a new World Cup champion being crowned later this month, a local man has been using his love for the game to help those in need and is being recognized for his efforts.

One June 12, Ellington native Stephen Schirra was honored as one of the 26 recipients of the 2018 Myra Kraft Community MVP Award. The award, which is presented by Robert Kraft and the New England Patriots, has recognized New Englanders and their volunteer efforts since 1998. The 2018 winners represent every state in New England, and ranger from 13 to 92 years of age, according to the awards press release.

Schirra, a 2010 graduate of Ellington High, was recognized by the Kraft family for his organization Around the Worlds, Around the World.

The Myra Kraft Community MVP Award brings Around the Worlds a $10,000 grant, which will help the charity continue to expand.

The idea for the charity arose after he returned from a trip to a Peruvian orphanage in August 2015. His goal was to give back, and help those less fortunate than he, using soccer as the catalyst. In March of 2016, Around the Worlds, Around the World was officially recognized as a charitable organization.

In just under three years, Schirra has visited schools, refugee homes, orphanages, youth shelters and feeding programs in 23 countries in four geographic regions: North, Central and South America and Asia. As of today, Around the Worlds has hand-delivered 1,262 soccer balls to underprivileged children across the globe and has worked with more than 3,700 children.

“It was a once in a lifetime experience and a tremendous honor to be named a Myra Kraft Community MVP,” Schirra said. “Just being there at Gillette Stadium, hearing about Myra Kraft and the legacy of volunteerism she left behind, while listening to the incredible stories and truly life-saving initiatives of other awardees was something special. Everyone had their own causes near and dear to their hearts, and then various action plans to affect change through whatever medium they chose, with tangible results of the impact they were each having in their own communities and beyond. It was truly an honor just to be among local heroes who are working tirelessly to make a difference in the lives of others with the tools and the resources they have been given.”

This isn’t the first time Schirra has been recognized for his efforts.

He was awarded with the Major League Soccer Community MVP Award at the 2016 MLS All-Star Game in San Jose. The award granted Around the Worlds, Around the World $10,000, which has been used to expand the organization. In February of this year, Schirra was recognized on the floor of the TD Garden by the Boston Celtics as part of their Heroes Among Us program.

“We’ve certainly had our fair share of triumphs since starting Around the Worlds almost three years ago,” Schirra said. “We’ve had stories go out on national news networks in the Philippines and Trinidad & Tobago, while also having a brief cameo on ESPN here in the States, and I will always be grateful for the awareness that brings to the work we do.”

Despite this, the Myra Kraft Community MVP Awards banquet was something special for Schirra.

“It really was special to meet Robert Kraft and Hall-of-Famer, Andre Tippett, while accepting such a prestigious honor on behalf of Around the Worlds and all of the children around the world whose lives we work so hard to impact,” Schirra said. “When compared to the Boston Celtics Heroes Among Us award and the Major League Soccer Community MVP, this ceremony was much more intimate – but just being able to take in the whole experience alongside my family and draw inspiration from others in the volunteerism sector was an incredible moment, and one I will certainly cherish for the rest of my life.”

After receiving the award, Schirra spent six days in one of the most dangerous and poorest neighborhoods of Santiago, Chile, “La Pintana”. The neighborhood is noted for having many drug and gang-related violence incidents. Despite this, however, the children were excited for the opportunity.

“We had a great set of kids from different ages and sizes, each just as eager as the next to learn something new that particular day,” Schirra said. “They were respectful and fully-engaged, but we also added in some soccer balls as prizes to keep things competitive. It was one of our cooler clinic locations because the Andes mountain range is pretty much the entire country’s backdrop. Needless to say, it was quite a scene.”

Schirra will be traveling again soon.

“I’ll be heading to Cuba within the next week to run a few programs with street children,” Schirra said. “My connection there is actually a former Cuban National Team player who defected to the United States while on international duty, so that itself is a pretty crazy story.”

After the Cuba trip, Schirra plans on expanding to even more locations, and to a new continent.

“I’m working on setting up collaborative projects with organizations helping refugees in Greece, followed by more programs in South America (Argentina & Uruguay). We will also be looking to bring our program to Africa – Senegal, Nigeria, Ghana, or South Africa, in the next few months. “

Schirra noted that Around the Worlds wouldn’t be where it is today without the support of others.

“As with everything, this award is the result of a collective effort between sponsors, donors, beneficiaries, benefactors, and more, all of which none of this would be possible without. This honor is a testament to the incredible community we have built through the past three years,” Schirra said. “I am eternally indebted to everyone who has helped us get here. From the bottom of my heart, thank you.”

For more information on Around the Worlds, Around the World, visit: http://aroundtheworlds.org/.

 

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