Nigel Brooks

Dynamo Charities extends club's reach off the pitch with player initiatives large and small

From the outside the house in northeast Houston looks much like its neighbors, bar one very unusual feature: an orange front door.

Inside, the garage is colored orange and blue, with a Dynamo crest and “Forever Orange 25” proudly painted on the wall, making the home’s origins obvious: it is the second House That Ching Built, completed and now home to the Garcia-Andrade family.

Brian Ching first partnered with Houston Habitat for Humanity in 2010 to raise $75,000 to build a house for a family in need. Last year, his final season as a player, the iconic striker started a fundraising campaign to construct another home. With donations and events such as his testimonial match, $125,000 was raised—enough to start planning a third house, let alone the second home that was unveiled at a ceremony last week.

“The first house I built was I felt one of the greatest things as I’ve ever done as an individual, being able to give back in that way. It’s one of the things I wanted to do again,” said Ching, whose shirt number was 25. He is now managing director of the Houston Dash.

“To get that amount of support from not only our ownership group, from the fans, the organization, Dynamo Charities, to be able to raise enough money to build two houses, has been really, really special. The think I love about Habitat and the house is that we’re not really giving anything away for free, we’re just making housing affordable, making people’s dreams affordable. There are a lot of families out there that need help and I’m just happy I was able to do my small part and be able to give back again in such a special way.”

Family member Alexandra Garcia-Andrade was also sporting Dynamo orange. “Knowing the Dynamo had a big part in it is amazing, not only they sponsored it and helped build it, they left their mark on my house. It’s exciting. I love it,” she said.

“I think he’s retired on the field but I don’t think he’s retired from his passion,” said Houston Habitat for Humanity executive director Allison Hay of Ching. Passion: the word gets to the core of how the Dynamo choose which community projects to support and why the help can make such a difference to the lives of Houstonians.

The club’s Dynamo Charities arm is governed by an eleven-strong board of directors with team president Chris Canetti acting as president and treasurer. With the help of players, staff, sponsors and volunteers, the Dynamo take part in a diverse range of events each year—some well-publicized and on a big scale; some that are smaller, informal and largely happen behind the scenes.

“Most of the events we do are driven by players and what their interests are,” said Canetti. “When the players have something that they dearly believe in and are firmly committed, and their passion is behind it, it drives success and results because their passion’s there and shows through to the fans.”

To take a few examples, ex-Dynamo star Geoff Cameron raised money for cancer research after a friend was diagnosed with the disease. Former Dynamo defender Craig Waibel started Bald is Beautiful, which the team has carried on after his departure. Will Bruin’s FURever Friends benefits the animal charity Houston SPCA. Canetti, a Connecticut native, organized Soccer Night in Newtown events after the tragedy at Sandy Hook elementary. 

Last year the club teamed up with Big Brothers Big Sisters to mentor students at Rusk Elementary, a short walk from BBVA Compass Stadium.

The creation of the Dash NWSL franchise has effectively doubled the number of players who participate, adding to the outreach efforts. Along with Rebuilding Together-Houston, volunteers and Dash players helped renovate a home in the East End in April as part of the BBVA Compass and Dynamo Charities Building a Better Houston initiative.

A dozen players from the teams are set to take part in the ninth-annual Tommy Bahama Island Cowboy Classic fundraising golf tournament in The Woodlands on June 23.

Events are often tied in with games at BBVA Compass Stadium, such as last April’s Guns and Hoses night in honor of police officers and firefighters and the upcoming Military Appreciation Night, on July 4, in conjunction with Brad and Tally’s Banded Brigade, an initiative from captain Brad Davis and goalkeeper Tally Hall that aims to bring support and recognition to military members. And on July 26 the Dynamo will host English Premier League side Aston Villa in the annual Dynamo Charities Cup.

“I think it’s a culture that we’ve instilled and not only in our team on the field but also in our entire organization. It’s part of us feeling that we’re a community here in Houston,” said Ching, speaking inside the place that his passion and dedication helped turn into a bricks-and-mortar reality. 

“Our fans are our community and we want to give back to them because they give us so much when we’re on the field—they give us their money, their time, their voices, and it’s a small thing for us to be able to give back for us in ways like this.”

Tom Dart is a contributing writer to HoustonDynamo.com and HoustonDashSoccer.com. Former editor and reporter for The Times of London and reporter for SI.com, Dart currently freelances for The Guardian.