Quakes forward Chris Wondolowski has garnered many awards over the last two seasons for his goal-laden campaigns on the field, but he took home a different piece of hardware from the annual SSVCF Banquet on Oct. 19.
The local product became the fourth recipient of the Andrew Bedard Memorial "Spirit of the Game" Award for his contributions to the Silicon Valley community during the 2011 season. Wondolowski joins previous winners Joe Cannon (2008), Shea Salinas (2009) and Jason Hernandez (2010) in the list of winners for an award named after a young Earthquakes fan who passed away at age 8 in 2004.
Andrew Bedard was a fan of former Earthquakes keeper Pat Onstad. Fittingly, Andrew's favorite position on the field was in goal. During the Fall 2003 season, his team didn't win a game and didn't score through most of the season, but his spirit left a lasting impression on his parents. After an especially difficult game, his dad asked him how he felt and Andrew's reply was, "I feel great! It doesn't matter what the score is. If you have a great attitude, you're a winner."
Following Andrew's sudden death from an aneurysm, Onstad, defenders Craig Waibel and Jeff Agoos, and other players and their wives stepped up to support the child's family.
In memory of Andrew, SSVCF established the Spirit of the Game Award, a prize that extends beyond wins and losses.
"Of all the awards I've ever won, this one hits home the most. I was touched by Andrew's story and receiving this honor means more to me than wins, losses, goals or anything else," Wondolowski said.
Wondolowski took a lead role in the club's community projects in 2011. After winning the 2010 Budweiser Golden Boot, he pledged to donate $50 for every goal he scored in 2011 to Street Soccer USA. With a program in San Francisco, Street Soccer USA works with the homeless in 20 cities across the country and 75 percent of participants connect to jobs, housing or further education within a year of play. The program builds community and trust through soccer while empowering participants to set goals and transform their lives.
In addition to his work with SSUSA, Wondolowski took a prominent role during the club's A&W Root Beer Float Night on July 30 at Buck Shaw Stadium. The event drew hundreds of Quakes fans and earned $5,000 for the ALS Association and the American Red Cross. He was also a regular at club appearances for Amway Kicks for Kids, Get Earthquakes Fit presented by Kaiser Permanente and a number of other local events.
Wondo's commitment to the community extends to match days where Quakes fans at Autograph Alley following the final whistle can find MLS's top goal scorer signing well into the night.
While Andrew didn't have the opportunity to meet Wondo, the young goalkeeper's spirit of the game clearly lives on in San Jose.