SAN CLEMENTE, Calif. — An all-expense-paid trip to London, England for the London 2012 Olympic Games may seem like a dream to some, but for one group of extraordinary young women, that dream has become a reality that they earned through hard work and dedication.

Passionate leaders and change makers in their communities describe the grand prize winners of the The Julie Foudy Sports Leadership Academy  “Choose to Matter Contest,” which was held to empower young female athletes to choose to make a difference in the lives and communities around them through instilling entrepreneurship, leadership skills and a sense of civic responsibility. Thanks to the generosity of McDonald’s and The Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility, the young ladies and their parents will join Julie Foudy, former Captain and two-time Olympic Gold Medalist of the U.S. Women’s Soccer Team, at the Olympic Games in London from August 9 through 12 to participate as Youth Ambassadors for McDonald’s Champions of Play program.

“The ‘Choose to Matter Contest’ was an incredible opportunity to not only honor and celebrate the achievements of the four winners, but also recognize and applaud all of the remarkable young women who created and implemented community service projects,” Foudy said.

The four girls, Jackie Schaefer, Gulafsha Kamrulhodda Ansari, Amanda Christianson and Moriah Wilson, individually worked on community projects and were able to evoke positive change in communities across the globe, providing shoes to needy children in Haiti, gifts and encouraging messages to hospitalized kids, toys and high school-aged mentors to foster kids, and opportunities for girls to play organized sports in Mumbai, India.

Girls from the three Julie Foudy Sports Leadership Academies, located in California, Illinois and New Jersey, and partner organization, Girl Talk, were invited to create and implement community service leadership projects during 2011 and enter the projects in the “Choose to Matter Contest.” During February 2012, more than 60,000 people visited the contest website and voted on their favorite projects to send four young women to the Olympics.

“We are proud of what these young women have all accomplished and look forward to watching them lead their peers from all over the world on an experience of a lifetime at the Olympics.  Through JFSLA and this contest, we hope to inspire more young women to continue to take action,” Foudy said.

Girls Making a Difference: Four Grand Prize Winners

  • Jackie Schaefer (age 12) from Jacksonville, Fla. (JFSLA New Jersey)
    • Jackie’s project, “Kids Helping Kids,” started by raising money and equipment to help refurbish and create a place for foster kids to play at their foster home.
    • Jackie expanded her project to involve a high school team and coaches who had the kids come watch a game and then visited the kids at the home—allowing the foster kids to learn from the high school kids. 
  • Gulafsha Kamrulhodda Ansari (age 16) from Mumbai, India (JFSLA California)
    • Gulafsha’s project, “Giving Girls a Chance to Play,” focused on empowering girls through sports by working to change the attitudes of the elders in her community toward allowing girls to play in an organized environment. Her goal was to give the girls in the poorest parts of Mumbai the opportunity to play and excel in sports.
    • Gulafsha’s participation in Julie Foudy’s California academy was made possible through the Julie Foudy Leadership Foundation and Magic Bus, the first nonprofit in India to deliver high-impact programs using a sport-based curriculum for community development.
  • Amanda Christianson (age 14) from Plainfield, Ill. (JFSLA Illinois)
    • Amanda’s project, “Cleats for Kids,” originally had a goal of collecting and distributing 300 pairs of shoes to kids in Haiti in need of shoes. She collected used cleats and sneakers from her community and shipped them to the kids in Haiti.
    • Amanda exceeded her goal by distributing more than 500 pairs of shoes to children in Haiti by the time she entered her project into the contest.
  • Moriah Wilson (age 14) from Atlanta, Ga. (GirlTalk)
    • Moriah’s project, “Lil’ Hearts of Love: Pillows and Pages Edition,” centered on providing comfort to patients at children’s hospitals by distributing 175 handmade pillows that included a book and encouraging messages for each child.
    • Moriah’s contest entry was part of a similar effort she and her sister have implemented for the past three years.

The Choose to Matter Contest website offers profiles on each of the grand prize winners and their projects, as well as profiles on the other 66 projects submitted for the Choose to Matter contest.  To learn more about the contest, academies, and partners mentioned above, please visit their respective pages.

  • About Julie Foudy and Julie Foudy Sports and Leadership Academy. Foudy’s soccer laurels date back to her time as a Stanford student-athlete, where she was named a four-time All-American and Soccer America Player of the Year in 1991. During her 18-year career as a midfielder for the U.S. national team, the U.S. women won two FIFA World Cup Titles (1991, 1999) and two Olympic gold medals (1996, 2004). Foudy, the former captain, was inducted into the National Soccer Hall of Fame in August 2007. Since her retirement in 2004, Foudy has remained close to the sport as the lead television voice for ESPN and ESPN2’s coverage of the quadrennial FIFA Women’s World Cups. In 2006, Julie Foudy launched the Julie Foudy Sports Leadership Academy for girls ages 12-18. The aim of the JFSLA is to expose students to Julie’s great passion: the concept of not just being a leader on the field but a leader in life.

·         About McDonald’s Champions of Play Program. McDonald’s recently renewed its Worldwide Sponsorship of the Olympic Games and pledged its commitment to champion generations of happy, active kids. The company launched the McDonald’s Champions of Play program, which focuses on balanced eating and active play and will bring kids from around the world together for a once-in-a-lifetime experience at the London 2012 Olympic Games. Up to 200 children and their guardians have been selected to see the Games first-hand, and have the exclusive privilege of playing with athletes at the Olympic venues. Children were recruited through grassroots programs.. The program features Championsofplay.com where Olympic athletes will inspire kids to get active and track their physical activities online through a series of engaging challenges. In addition, special Happy Meal packaging and in-restaurant materials, such as Champions of Play Playbooks and Fun Times Magazine,   includes information and tips to encourage balanced eating andactive play. McDonald’s long-standing support of sports initiatives for kids extends beyond the 17 days of the Games to include programs that promote physical activity at the local, national and global levels through partnerships with thousands of sporting associations. For more information on this program and McDonald’s sponsorship of the Games, please visit http://www.aboutmcdonalds.com.

  • About The Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility. The Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility is a leader in the fight against drunk driving and underage drinking and promotes responsible decision making regarding beverage alcohol. Founded in 1991 and funded by distillers, the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility is a national, independent, not-for-profit organization headquartered in Arlington, Virginia. An independent National Advisory Board comprised of distinguished leaders in education, medicine, government, business, and other relevant disciplines assists us in the development of programs and policies.


             @JFoudySLA and @JulieFoudy


Editor’s Note:  Digital images are available; Interviews upon request.

Media Contacts:

JFSLA: Ann Kletz, akletz@sbcglobal.net, 510-333-3016/Katie Eldridge keeldrid@hotmail.com, 602-326-8923

The Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility: Jessica Lepak, lepakj@responsibility.org, 202-637-0077

McDonald’s: Melissa Daly, melissa.daly@us.mcd.com, 630-623-8653

Girl Talk: Jennifer Grizzle, jennifer@theprstudio.com, 770-409-1152, www.desiretoinspire.org

Ann Kletz: akletz@sbcglobal.net, 510-333-3016