Real Salt Lakes’ inaugural RSL Family Initiative highlighted autism awareness during the April 9th match against Toronto FC. RSL employees created 100 sensory kits which were handed out to fans, and more than 400 tickets were distributed to kids, families and therapists in “Kreilach’s Corner” of the Rio Tinto Stadium.
The RSL Family Initiative falls under the umbrella of the new Real Salt Lake ethos, The RSL Way, which was developed by club legend Tony Beltran toward the end of last season.
“The RSL Way was created to refocus the club and make sure we got back to our roots of why people fell in love with the club in the first place,” said RSL Director of Community and Player Engagement, Kyle Schroeder. “The RSL Family Initiative is a big part of that. The initiative’s purpose is to empower RSL employees to drive community focused missions which we believe proves that when you have someone who is passionate about one subject, you see that impact and their connection grow and drive that mission forth.”
Club employees submit their RSL Family Initiative ideas to the RSL Family Council who then work with the employee on the logistics of executing their vision. From there, the employee and the council work together to make their idea come to life which is how RSL’s Austim Awareness Night was born.
Brett Call, the Practice Facility Supervisor at the Zions Bank Real Academy, submitted and executed the first ever RSL Family Initiative project and was able to see it come to fruition at the stadium last Saturday.
“My wife has been working in the autism community for 14 years, so it’s something that’s close to us,” said Call. Seeing these families and the struggles they go through, it’s pretty awesome we’re able to celebrate them. She visited with some of the families she works closely with that are here and it was special to see the appreciation that they’ve shown. They were so happy that the club was supporting them, their families and their cause.”
Real Salt Lake supporters, Camille Neilsen and Shyla Christensen, brought their children to the match and had this to say about the initiative.
“Having kiddos with special needs is pretty hard and to go to a public place like this is a lot of work, but we’ve been feeling really welcomed and having someone to help us get tickets is so nice,” said Neilsen. “Like our kids are doing way better than I thought they would do. I’m really grateful and they love it.”
“I think it’s great and it’s exciting,” said Christensen. “You know, families don’t always want to bring their kids out to things like this, especially an autistic kid because for a lot of us, it’s really hard. It’s a huge ordeal. So to spend the money and bring your kid to something like this and know it’s going to work out, it’s appreciated.
The 400 plus tickets that were distributed in Kreilach’s Corner featured individuals from:
- Affinity Treatment
- Columbus Community Center
- Fabian House
- Better Options
- Kids Who Count
- Special Olympics Utah
- Special Olympics North America
- RSL Unified
- ABS Kids
- Scenic View
- BYU McKay School of Education
“Parents of children on the autism spectrum can find it difficult to participate in activities that seem ordinary to parents of typically developing children,” said Kelsey Lewis, Executive Director of Kids Who Count. “We are grateful to Real Salt Lake for partnering with the autism community and hosting Autism Awareness Night and including families and children on the autism spectrum.”
“Together, we can spread awareness, and promote ACCEPTANCE of individuals with autism through support, understanding, compassion and caring. On behalf of the children and families we serve—thank you Real Salt Lake!”
Be on the lookout for more RSL Family Initiative projects this season as the club continues to strive to make an inclusive and accessible environment for all to enjoy Major League Soccer in the state of Utah.