Keegan Donaca, Washington State, ’25, was honored in Kansas City, Missouri, in January at the 2022 US Youth Soccer Awards Gala where he was recognized as the 2021 USYS TOPSoccer Buddy of the Year. This award celebrates the passion and dedication of buddies who partner with players on the field to make soccer accessible to all. Keegan has been involved for four years, which consisted of the summer sessions and winter sessions.
Keegan’s stepfather, who is also a Phi, Kevin Hoffman, Colorado ’01, shares, “This is an amazing national honor and something to be celebrated because of Keegan’s commitment to philanthropy and doing this for no other reason than it was the right thing to do. He is part of the group of quality young men who are part of the restarting of Washington Gamma Chapter.”
US Youth Soccer TOPSoccer (The Outreach Program for Soccer) is a community-based training program for all athletes with intellectual, developmental, and or physical disabilities. The program strives to provide soccer opportunities (the opportunity of soccer) for players to develop at their own pace in a safe, fun, and supportive/inclusive environment.
TOPSoccer was formed to perpetuate the US Youth Soccer mission statement which is, in part, to foster the physical, mental and emotional growth and development of America’s youth through the sport of soccer at all levels of age and competition. There are thousands of children with disabilities who have the opportunity to play soccer through the TOPSoccer program.
From several nomination letters for Keegan, several described how Keegan went from an early volunteer, responsible for only one player, to the program’s lead buddy, responsible for mentoring younger buddies, pairing buddies and players, and helping with many administrative tasks for the Salmon Creek TOPSoccer program.
The various limitations and restrictions posed by COVID-19 added several layers of complication to plans, but with each challenge, Keegan excelled. His awareness of the needs of the kids in his area, and how they might best respond with certain buddies was exceptional. “Keegan has made a lasting impact on the Salmon Creek TOPSoccer program and changed the atmosphere of inclusivity as a whole. We need more Keegans in the world.”
From another letter, the nominator explained that when most high school seniors begin to drop out of their volunteer activities, “we saw the opposite from Keegan. He was more engaged than ever. He made sure our buddy/player pairings were good for both. He even recorded buddy recruitment videos in between sessions. Keegan is a leader among the buddies both in attitude and effort, whether it is leading a group exercise or filling in where a special hand is needed for a certain player.”
One parent, with two kids who are TOPSoccer players, shared, “I am grateful to have Keegan as a role model for my children.” Because of his leadership, both of her children became junior buddies, allowing them to be leaders “like Keegan” through this important program.
Not surprisingly, Keegan Donaca currently serves as the Washington Gamma Chapter’s recruitment chairman.