El Paso Soccer Community Rallies Behind Youth Coaches Wounded In Walmart Shooting
El Pasoans are extending themselves to help one another after the mass shooting at a Walmart that left 22 people dead and more than two dozen injured. Among those still in the hospital are two youth soccer coaches, Luis Calvillo and Memo Garcia.
Fans and friends gathered at a community soccer game Sunday evening to raise money for them.
The crowd at the Socorro ISD stadium cheered as two teams, sporting white and black jerseys, sprinted up and down the field. Daniel Vasquez said it’s quite a roster.
“You’ve got some local legends, some pro players, some former pro players. A national referee is out there calling the game," he said. "I mean it just puts everything into a certain perspective about the strength of the community.”
Vasquez is with the Paso del Norte Youth Soccer Association. Soccer is big in El Paso. He said they have around 300 teams.
At this charity scrimmage, there was no title or cup at stake — just a call for financial support for the coaches in the hospital.
That Saturday, Aug. 3 — outside the Cielo Vista Walmart — Calvillo and Garcia were among a group holding a fundraiser for EP Fusion, a girls team. Ben McGuire, the assistant coach, said they set up around 9 a.m.
“10:38. That’s when the shots started happening. Myself, my daughter, two of my girls and an aunt, were on the east end of the Walmart and we just ran inside,” he said.
McGuire wasn’t injured, but parents there to help were. So was Coach Memo Garcia’s wife, Jessica, who is now out of the hospital. McGuire said the whole community has come together.
“That’s what El Paso is. We’re one big giant community," he said. "If one goes down, the whole community comes behind us.”
In the stands, Coach Jose Andrade sat with his team, Express FC. Two years ago, he coached Javier Rodriguez. The 15-year-old was the youngest person killed in the shooting. Andrade remembers Javier as an excellent player.
“Everything that I told him to do, he used to do it by the book," Andrade said. "He didn’t complain. He was always positive. He was a happy kid. He was just happy to play.”
Volunteers walked up and the stadium steps, selling raffle tickets for a chance to win a bike. Walmart donated food for the concession stands. Jackie Herrera’s wore bright yellow, and came with her young son who plays for a team called FC Dallas.
“If you look around, it doesn’t matter what team you’re on. It is uniting us,” she said.
Herrera said the tragedy has been gutting but it has also brought the city closer than it’s ever been before.
“The city has come together as one and we are proving that El Paso is strong,” she said.
Joey Palacios can be contacted at Joey@TPR.org and on Twitter at @Joeycules