#Brody #Zauners #legacy #lives #Allentown #scholarship #fund
There are a lot of ways you can describe Brody Zauner, and what he accomplished in his short time on Earth.
I would describe him as a very good soccer player, a willing SAT student under my tutelage, a co-worker–Zauner was a Digital Accounts Manager for New Jersey Advance Media when he passed away this summer, and I also worked with him for one season (2012) at the Field of Terror–and maybe most of all, a friend.
He was that to so many people through sports, work, and life.
For his travel soccer coach for so many years, Amaro Pereira of the Upper Freehold Allentown Strikers, Zauner was one of the players that kept the coach on his toes at all times.
“They butted heads,” Brody’s father Shawn Zauner laughed when remembering his son’s dealings with Pereira said.
“Brody was the type of kid that was a fighter,” Pereira said. “He was a go-getter. He didn’t leave anything unsaid, whether he did something wrong or whatever it was. But he was always honest: he fought for what he believed in. If the referee made a bad call and he got a red card and actually deserved it, he was ok with it.
“Growing up, like every kid at that age, they don’t look at what we are trying to teach them for the long term. Only later on in life do they realize that sometimes we were hard on you because we saw potential. If you don’t have potential, we would never get mad or push you. When you took a kid like Brody, who wasn’t born with the same type of athleticism as some of his teammates but he worked harder, we always had his best interests and always loved him like a son. We got in disagreements on the field, but later on in life they realized what we were trying to do and they appreciated that.”
Zauner was part of two of the most successful soccer programs in the last decade. He played for Pereira on the UFA team that won the U-15 national championship with players that helped Allentown and Trenton Catholic Academy dominate the early part of the last decade. In 2013, that Allentown program made history, winning its only boys soccer state title with a 0-0 draw against Northern Highlands in brutal conditions at TCNJ.
Now, Thursday night, as the Redbirds host West Windsor-Plainsboro North on its new turf pitch, Zauner will be honored. Pereira and Brody’s parents, Kathy and Shawn, started a Go Fund Me account trying to raise $10,000 to give a scholarship in Brody’s name each year to an Allentown soccer player. Originally, it starts as a pledge to his old UFA teammates to give $100 each year, but the idea has blossomed online, and there is already over $16,000 in the scholarship fund. With an alumni match set for Saturday afternoon as well, that number could end up much higher.
That is one of the lasting legacies of Brody’s short, but massively fruitful, time with his teammates and friends.
“I think a lot of it just comes back to some of the stories I have been hearing about him,” Shawn Zauner said. “Everybody always said about him that he was always giving, always willing to help with anything he had, and whatever he could. He just had a giving spirit. He would want to give back, and he he wanted to help people. So if we can give back to somebody else, and that person gives back, it is a spiraling effect. If we get 20 kids over the years that get these scholarships, they will do more for that as well. That was Brody’s personality.
“The response has been amazing, from fiends, to trainers, to parents, everybody. That is one of the nice things about a small community: you realize so many people were affected and had a feeling about it. It not get lost because he came from a town of 100,000 people. Everybody is helping, donating times, to see this through.”
“When I thought about the scholarship, and ways to keep his name going in the soccer community and the school, the one thing I always told our players when I supported them through all the tournaments and trips, the only thing I asked is that if one day they could, they could give back in some way,” Pereira said. “I always wanted them to be respectful, and try to give back, just like I gave to them. Initially, when I thought about this scholarship, it was going to be just from the Strikers. I got in touch with the 17 players and told them ‘Hey, we are going to do this, and I need you to commit $100 a year towards this scholarship.’ So we were doing a scholarship for $2,500, and we would put in the rest.
“Right away, every single one of them said they are committed, they are in. Then, all of a sudden, the close-knit community all wanted to help, because either Brody, the family, or the team touched so many lives. When they heard it was for Brody, and to make the first ever soccer scholarship at Allentown High School under his name, we opened it up to all of our contacts and sent out the link. Shawn set it up, it started small, but the outpouring of the community has been amazing. It is great to see.
“Now, it is fresh, and sometimes people will forget. But the reason I reached out to the 17 kids is that they will never forget, and they were happy to know they were involved so they never forget who Brody was.”
Allentown has already committed to putting the game on the schedule each year, and has been very supportive of the idea in what has been a tough time for the Allentown soccer community and the town as a whole.
“This will be the first Brody Zauner Memorial Game, but it will be on the calendar on a yearly basis,” Pereira said. “We are starting with the one $2.,500 scholarship for one soccer player on the team going on to a two-year, four-year, trade school. Our goal, depending on the financial numbers, to give a boys and girls scholarship on a yearly basis. The school is really behind it, because they have never had anything like this. It is unfortunate that something happens to bring awareness and start something. But something good can come out of this.
“We want to make sure he is not forgotten, and the more people talk about it, laugh about, the healing process will take place. Get his name out there, his number, and it is a healthy part of the healing process for everyone”
If you would like to donate to the scholarship fund in Zauner’s name, please use this link here, or go to the game Thursday night.
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