Caring for Two Decades: Pat Cain’s We Care Soccer Camp Celebrates Its 20th Anniversary
This summer, We Care Soccer Camp celebrated its 20th Anniversary. Started in 1994, the camp was conceived and is still run by Fishtown coach Pat Cain. Most summers, We Care has been run out of Hetzel’s field at Thompson Street and Montgomery Avenue in Fishtown. “For the past two years though, we had to run the camp at Shissler Rec, because Hetzel’s Field had too many holes,” stated Pat. With the recent upgrades made to Hetzel’s, the camp was able to return to its home base for the 20th Anniversary.
We Care is a legacy that Pat is passing down to younger generations of Fishtowners and Riverward residents. His granddaughter Ava has been attending We Care since she was five years old. Ava is ten now, and said the camp has made her a much better team player. Her friend Hannah likes the fact that she gets to meet and play with kids from so many different schools.
Sean, an Adaire student, said his favorite part of the camp is “Hanging out with friends and learning how to be better at soccer.” Sean also liked that he gets to meet new friends while also playing alongside his best friend Andrew.
Kids at We Care spent their week going through drills and playing scrimmages. They are given firsthand instruction on basic and advanced mechanics of soccer, teamwork and sportsmanship. Kids are also given breakfast and lunch every day. Unlike many other summer camps in the city, We Care Soccer Camp is, and has always been, a free resource for kids from the River Wards and surrounding neighborhoods. Several local sponsors help to make the camp possible, like Joe Sulimay’s Barber Shop, Primo’s Deli, BeDazzled Hair Salon, Starboard Side Tavern, Vinnie Ovecka (State Farm Insurance), and Memphis Street Market.
Children showed up to register for the camp on Monday morning, and came every day for the next five days. While attending We Care, kids were split into squads by age group, and coached by adult and teenage volunteers. There were approximately 25 volunteers helping with this year’s soccer camp. Billy Gorey, who was raised in Fishtown, but now lives in Port Richmond, was glad to volunteer. His son Liam attended the camp, along with several players from the Fishtown Kickers team Billy coaches. Gorey has helped Pat several times in the past. This year, Billy left most of the coaching up to the younger counselors. Instead, he took on duties of cleaning up the field and retrieving balls kids would overstrike. Gorey said his favorite part of the camp is seeing all of his old friends and neighbors. “Living in Port Richmond now, I miss the camaraderie of the old neighborhood,” Billy stated.
Pat Cain uses the camp to not only teach kids to become team players, but to become leaders as well. One of the traditions of We Care is having kids come back to help coach as they get older. One of the teenage coaches, Brendan, has been helping with We Care for the past five years. Brendan is a Fishtowner and a Junior at Franklin Towne Charter, where he plays varsity soccer. The young kids seem to really like and respect Brendan, as they do all of their coaches at the camp. Brendan looks at his time at We Care Soccer Camp very fondly, saying, “It’s a really good opportunity, and every year it seems to get better. I get something out of working with these kids, because every day seems like a new journey for me.”
Not only is We Care still going strong after all these years, it is also actually expanding. Pat reported that the camp hosted over 250 kids this year. Aside from the number of registrants increasing, the services are also expanding. We Care is now open to special needs children. Cain runs a TOPS Soccer program at Penn Treaty School, so he wanted to make sure these kids also had the opportunity to participate in the camp this summer.
All week long, children of all ages and sizes could be seen donning gym uniforms and hoodies promoting their respective schools. However, on Friday, the final day of camp, they were all given We Care Soccer Camp shirts, showing they were on the same team. Of course, the final day of the camp is everyone’s favorite day. Aside from their shirts, kids each receive a brand new soccer ball to take with them, so they can keep their skills sharp throughout the year.
We Care Soccer Camp is a tradition that will keep going for years to come. “These programs are very important,” Billy Gorey said, “because they keep the kids active, they get to meet new friends. What Pat does with this camp is amazing, doing it for free and not charging a lot of money like all of these other camps. It’s sad when you drive by an empty playground. We need more activities for the kids.”
Be on the lookout for announcements about We Care Soccer Camp next summer in the Spirit Newspapers.