Sarah Gorden, Red Stars raise over $15,000 for mental health resources

In total, Gorden’s challenge raised $15,707 for Get Yo Mind Right Chi and Healthy Hood. The Red Stars contributed $6,164, and supporters outside the organization raised $9,543.

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Sarah Gorden shoots the ball during the final preliminary match of the NWSL Challenge Cup against the Utah Royals.

provided photo/ISI Photos

When Red Stars defender Sarah Gorden left for Utah and the NWSL Challenge Cup, she knew she wasn’t going merely to play soccer.

As a member of the United States’ first professional sports league to return to play, Gorden’s platform had never been more influential, and she planned on using every moment to advocate for police reform and to speak out against systemic racism.

In the three weeks Gorden has been in Utah, her commitment to bringing about change has manifested itself in daily posts to her social-media platforms and in leading conversations among teammates.

And Gorden, a native of Elk Grove Village, hasn’t stopped there. With every idea that has come to mind, her efforts have grown more tangible.

‘‘The Red Stars have been on board for every idea I’ve thrown their way,’’ Gorden said. ‘‘I thought [the Pass It On Challenge] was going to be something internal within our team, and it’s just blown up.’’

Gorden’s vision for the challenge started with an idea to raise money for Get Yo Mind Right Chi, a local mental-health initiative that is part of Healthy Hood Chicago. Healthy Hood is a nonprofit organization focused on closing the life-expectancy gap that exists between Chicago’s affluent and underprivileged communities.

After having a conversation with her boyfriend, Gorden decided the best way to raise money was through a challenge. Initially, she assumed it would stay among the Red Stars. She spoke with her teammates and figured out who she could tag that would keep it going.

Gorden committed to donating $5 for every pass she completed in the Red Stars’ final preliminary match of the Challenge Cup and tagged Julie Ertz, Casey Short, Red Stars support group Chicago Local 134 and Fire forward CJ Sapong.

Within minutes of tweeting out the challenge, countless members of the NWSL and beyond were on board.

‘‘I think a lot of people do want to help,’’ Gorden said. ‘‘And they want to use this sport to make a difference. They just need to be told how and when things like this happen.’’

Ertz committed to a donation for every tackle she had Sunday against the Utah Royals, Kealia Watt committed to donating $100 for every time Red Stars coach Rory Dames yelled during the game and Alyssa Naeher committed to giving $50 for every save she made.

Sapong pledged $50 for every touch he had in the Fire’s first match of the MLS Is Back tournament and announced a donation of $3,200 after getting 64 touches Tuesday.

In total, Gorden’s challenge raised $15,707 for Get Yo Mind Right Chi and Healthy Hood. The Red Stars contributed $6,164, and supporters outside the organization raised $9,543. The number was tracked based on donations made on social media that tagged Gorden or used the hashtag #PassItOnCRS, so it’s possible the impact was even greater.

‘‘I don’t think it’s been a secret to anyone the work our team has done with the Black Lives Matter movement,’’ Dames said. ‘‘We’ve been having meetings within our team. We have a leadership group, and just internally within our team, we discussed doing [the challenge]. Sarah led the way. The way that it spread is bigger than any of us could have hoped.’’

On Saturday, the Red Stars will face OL Reign in the quarterfinals of the Challenge Cup. The winner will play the Washington Spirit or Sky Blue in the semifinals.

OL Reign boasts a talented front line, with Jodie Taylor flanked by Sofia Huerta and Bethany Balcer. A key for the Red Stars will be to contain those three while working to find their own chances.

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