San Jose Earthquakes forward Chris Wondolowski hosted a soccer camp from Dec. 13-15 at Pleasant Valley High School in Chico, Calif., benefiting victims of the destructive Camp Fire. The soccer camp was free for victims of the Camp Fire, while other participants were asked to make a donation towards the North Valley Community Foundation. In total, the camp was attended by more than 100 kids and raised nearly $7,000.
Wondolowski and his former Chico State teammates led soccer drills and gave young players advice to take their game to the next level. After all, Wondolowski, who needs just two more goals to become Major League Soccer’s all-time leading scorer, has the humblest of roots in the sport.
Matt Rosendin of Paradise, Calif. brought his son, Brett, to the camp and was willing to share his heartwarming story with the Quakes and Wondolowski himself.
“I’m originally from San Jose. I grew up in San Jose, playing soccer and going to San Jose Earthquakes games at Spartan Stadium.
“It started off like any other morning. Nobody really knew the horror that was coming. My wife left in the morning to take our daughter to the high school and then go up to her classroom in Magalia. She’s a second-grade teacher there. I’m a nurse and I work down in Enloe Hospital and when I got off in the morning about 8 o’clock, I looked at my phone and I had messages from my wife, saying ‘Call me. Call me. Call me. There’s a fire.’ So, I called her and I could see the smoke up the hill. She said there’s a fire in the canyon and to hurry home and get Brett because he was home alone.
“Right when I pulled up to the house, somebody pulled up to me and yelled that I needed to leave, that the hospital which is about ¾ of a mile away was on fire. I told the kids, ‘You’ve got a few minutes. Grab what you want.’ And I ran into the backyard and looked up the canyon. I could see the smoke. It was a big, black column of smoke heading our way and I could hear explosion after explosion going off.
“So, I ran back into the house and I said, ‘Kids, that’s it. Whatever you got, you got.’ We jumped in the truck, got our dogs and started to head out. I looked back and asked Brett what he grabbed, and he said, ‘I got my soccer bag’ and he said, ‘I got my Wondo ball.’ We met Chris Wondolowski after an Earthquakes game about three years ago.
“Later that evening when he showed me what he took, he grabbed one picture off his board. It was a picture of him and Chris Wondolowski. Of course, my wife gave me a bad time, saying he didn’t get any pictures of him with her. He got the one picture with Chris Wondolowski.
“I grew up, when I was Brett’s age, going to San Jose Earthquakes games. I take him to games and it’s really fun for me to be able to share a love for soccer and our love for the Earthquakes. And then of course being from Chico, our love for Chris Wondolowski because he represents so much to the kids. I tell them all the time, ‘He was just like one of you guys and look what he’s done with his life and everything that he’s achieved.’ He’s really a lot of inspiration for everybody in this area. The kids really look up to him.
“It means so much to me that this is all taking place. We’ve had a rough month and to be able to have something like this to be able to attend and just have fun and play soccer with somebody that we’ve admired over the years is amazing.”