This article is part of our series “Vocate’s Wall of Fame”. Each person described in the series is someone who has inspired the Vocate team and who we believe represents what “unlocking human potential” means. Quite literally, the Wall of Fame exists in our office (printed out images framed on the wall) and every week we vote on a new honoree.
Tommy Clark is the founder and CEO of the Grassroots Soccer program. Tommy was born and raised playing soccer in Scotland. When Tommy was 14, he and his family moved to Zimbabwe, where Tommy began to experience the power of playing soccer on a global scale. In Zimbabwe, Tommy’s father coached the Highlanders FC, a Zimbabwean professional soccer team. Despite their many cultural differences, the Clark’s and the locals were connected by soccer. Whether they were playing in the streets, a dusty field, or on grass, the game was the same.
Tommy left Zimbabwe briefly to attend Dartmouth College. While he was there, he joined the Men’s Varsity Soccer Team. After he graduated, he promptly returned to Zimbabwe to teach English to children. Unfortunately, upon his return, HIV/AIDS was beginning to take over. Tommy attended multiple funerals for friends and teammates who had been affected by HIV. Even though HIV was extremely present in Zimbabwe, it was rarely talked about and barely anyone knew what it was. Tommy, being a large influence in the community, wanted to help prevent this disease for the future by educating children.
After Tommy finished medical school at Dartmouth, he decided he would begin to educate children through soccer. He and three of his past teammates, Methembe Ndlovu, Kirk Friedrich, and Ethan Zoh were all on board for this idea. Just like that, Grassroots Soccer was born. It wasn’t long before 14 other professional soccer players, men and women from around the world, joined to help the cause in 2002. Grassroots was rapidly growing and spreading all over.
Today, there are Grassroots Soccer programs in 50 countries. They continue to educate children on HIV while doing what they love. Daniel Hazlett, one of our interns here at Vocate, nominated Tommy because he “truly embod(ies) and align(s) with our mission statement, ‘Unlocking Human Potential.’ The inspiring organization uses the power of soccer to educate millions of adolescents about health challenges and helps them take charge of their lives and their communities.”
For more information, follow this link: https://www.grassrootsoccer.org/a-letter-from-tommy-clark/