Wilmington, NC: In the aftermath of Hurricane Florence’s landfall along our coast nearly two months ago, local residents continue to be impacted in unexpected ways. While competitive sports may not be the first thing that comes to mind, the storm caused nearly 200 youth soccer league games across the state to be cancelled. This not only extended the season but also caused a disruption in tournament qualification for the Beach Soccer Classic, a tournament held annually in Wilmington in November. Additionally, many coastal families were evacuated and/or had to relocate, lost income and incurred unexpected expenses.
Immediately following the storm the North Carolina Youth Soccer Association (NCYSA) and the Wilmington Hammerheads Youth Soccer management (WHYFC) began discussions about how to make up the games cancelled by the storm, as well as limit travel for coastal families. These discussions led to the creation of the NCYSA Carolina Strong Festival: a weekend soccer festival to be held in Wilmington on November 17th and 18th. The NCYSA Carolina Strong Festival will make up nearly half of the canceled games and help raise funds for those coastal soccer clubs affected by Hurricane Florence. The first-ever event will replace the 2018 Beach Soccer Classic and will be open to ALL USYS / US Club and Affiliate Clubs. In addition to the make-up games the event is open to NC and SC teams who were not affected by the hurricane but would like to participate and support the event.
“We are proud that we were able to put an event like this together and hope that it brings the soccer community together to support all of those affected,” states Wilmington Hammerheads Youth Soccer Tournament Director Dani Pittman. “The outpouring of support has been amazing. Based on the restructure of the event, we have seen an increase in the number of teams visiting Wilmington. This year 215 teams will participate, as compared to last year’s 150. This year teams are finding volunteer opportunities and ways to give back while they’re here for the event.”
“The amazing thing about North Carolina and our NC soccer family is that in times such as these, we see such an outpouring of generosity and support. This happens not only by means of actions and donations, but through a genuine concern for their fellow neighbor,” states Colby Morton, NCYSA Assistant Director: Classic, State Cup Series. “The NCYSA Carolina Strong Festival is an example of teams and families showing our affected Coastal Clubs and communities that we care and stand strong together to rebuild. We are grateful to the Wilmington Hammerheads Youth for partnering with NCYSA to put on this fundraising event for our affected associations.”
“It is heartwarming to see the supportive response to this wonderful event to help those affected by the storm,” states Kim Hufham, president/CEO of the New Hanover County Tourism Development Authority. “It is also a positive sign of our area’s recovery and our ability to welcome visitors and invite them to come back.”
Some teams will be staying overnight in the Wilmington area, while others will be driving in for the day. In support of coastal communities, event organizers are asking each non-coastal club team with a rescheduled match for a recommended donation of $250 per team. These monies, along with other fundraising efforts for this weekend, will be distributed directly throughout affected Coastal Soccer Club members. Along with donations, hotel rebates, t-shirt profits, concessions, etc., will be given directly back to Coastal Soccer Clubs. The Wilmington Hammerheads Youth are working with partners to cover expenses of the event, such as referee costs. They are also accepting tax-deductible individual donations, as well as selling shirts through Soccer.com with 100% of the proceeds being donated to the event. For more information about the 2018 NCYSA Carolina Strong Festival (Nov. 17-18), visit the website.
Sponsors include: Traveling Teams, Wilmington KOA, Jimmy John’s, Fine Designs, and the N.C. Youth Soccer Association. The 2018 Carolina Strong Festival will take place at multiple soccer fields in New Hanover County, including: Cape Fear Regional Soccer Park, Eaton Fields, Ogden Park, Roland Grise, Veteran’s Park fields, Hugh MacRae Athletic Complex, and Northern Regional Park.
The New Hanover County Tourism Development Authority d/b/a Wilmington and Beaches Convention & Visitors Bureau is the official destination marketing organization of New Hanover County that stimulates economic development through the promotion of travel and tourism.
[NOTE TO MEDIA: For interviews and photo ops, contact Wilmington Hammerheads Youth Soccer Tournament Director Dani Pittman directly at 910-512-4279 (cell).]