P- Union 1By MatthewWaters
mwaters@chesterspirit.com

Walking up to the Philadelphia Union’s sign-in table at their annual holiday event, it appeared as if the MLS team’s inaugural toy drive was off to a slow start. The two big, gold boxes reading “Union Toy Drive” on either side of the table were empty more than two hours into the event.

In fact, the opposite was true: so many donations had come through that the boxes had to be emptied out to make room for more toys.

The Union’s front office wanted to give back to the team’s hometown, the City of Chester, in a new way this year. The team has held coat drives for the past four years but decided to add a toy drive for the city’s disadvantaged kids.

Many season ticketholders who attended the event to take pictures with Union stars Sébastien Le Toux and Sheanon Williams also brought donations with them. The general public was invited as well to take pictures on the field and watch the MLS Cup in the Stadium Club, which meant even more toys for Chester kids.

The organization will give the donations to the Boys and Girls Club to distribute. Leah Moore, manager of business development, said the major league soccer team didn’t want to just pick one church or school as a beneficiary of the effort. By giving to the club, the toys will reach needy kids from all over the city. More than 100 gifts were collected on Saturday and, along with more than 50 gifts from the Union’s front office and other donations already received, the organization has already eclipsed its goal of 200 total toys.

The team wanted to get something philanthropic together last season but wasn’t able to pull it together in time. This year, there was enough notice to find partners and get the word out to people coming out to the holiday event so they could bring toys for all age groups.

Now, the holiday event isn’t just about thanking season ticket holders for their support, it’s about finding another way to thank the city.

“It’s great to have season ticketholders take their photo, but we really wanted to make it about the holidays, about giving back,” said Ashley Dabb, director of marketing and special events with the Union.

Omar Izarra, a season ticketholder who tries to attend all the special events the Union hold, wasn’t at all surprised to see that the organization found a new way to give back to the community.

“They’re trying to help (the area) out, which is good,” he said. “Not too many clubs do things like that. The Union is actually one that tries to do something like that.”

The Union will collect toys through Friday at various drop off locations throughout the area. Special arrangements can also be made for a person or business looking to donate 10 or more toys by contacting marketing@philadelphiaunion.com.

P- Union 2 P- Union net lighting courtesy of Philadelphia Union

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