Sports has a way of bringing a community together. For Dale Johnson, that’s not just spoken word, it's a way of life. Dale is the founder of Tillie’s Touch, a nonprofit organization that helps support the less fortunate through soccer and education.
“We’ve been in existence for almost 12 years now,” Johnson said. “Basically our mission is to give kids an opportunity in sports and academics. We obtain a 100% high school graduation rate and our kids go on to higher education. And that’s what it’s all about”
Twelve progam across the region came out to support Tillies Touch on Saturday.
Coach Michael Henry and his Henninger Black Knights were one of the programs playing. For him, Tillie’s Touch has a special place in his heart.
“It gives like a family setting for us as we come back together,” Henry said. “As these boys grow together, there’s just this cohesion and this love amongst them that, you know, it's across all schools. It’s not just Henninger students. It's all the other schools that are taking part in Tillie’s Touch and really supports the community.”
But what Saturday’s event really boils down to is the work being done to support our local youth.
Both Olivier Beinvenu and Dawt Cung are testaments to the programs work. Both admit that prior to joining Tillie’s Touch, they felt left behind. But, through the organization, not only are they on pace to graduate high school, they plan to further their studies in college.
“It helped me a lot,” Cung said. “Not just for soccer but for school. That’s what I’m really thankful for”
“I agree with Dawt,” Bienvenu said. “Tillies touch has been very impactful in my life because I came here and I didn’t have any team to play with. I wasn’t welcomed and I didn’t feel welcomed until I joined Tillie’s Touch, where I found most kids…kids who look like me”
And for Johnson, Tillie’s impact on kids like Olivier is what the program is all about
"It’s great,” he said. “It’s awesome. You know, our goal is that every one of our kids at Tillie’s Touch graduates high school. Really, that’s our end goal and soccer is our vehicle to get there."