FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – In just his second year with the New England Revolution, A.J. Soares has proven himself a leader on the field and in the locker room. Now the 23-year-old center back is using those leadership skills in the community as part of the BOSTON vs. BULLIES campaign, presented by The Sports Museum.
Soares is one of nine featured athletes serving as spokespeople for the campaign, which lists one of its primary goals as “using the power of Boston’s professional sports teams and the Boston sports community [to] help kids increase their understanding about bullying and encourage them to stand strong against bullying.”
The campaign kicked off this month and Soares could not be more thrilled to lend his voice to a cause which has special meaning for him and his family.
“I have nine nieces and nephews, so I have a lot of younger relatives that kind of look up to me as an uncle,” said Soares, who also has five older brothers and sisters. “So [I’m] seeing them growing up and kind of seeing a little bit of bullying at that age. Also, obviously having gone through it, being a kid you’re either bullied or you bullied someone at some point.”
Joining Soares on the list of featured athletes supporting the cause are New England Patriots safety Patrick Chung, Boston Bruins defenseman Adam McQuaid, Boston Celtics forward Brandon Bass, Boston Red Sox catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Boston Breakers captain Leslie Osborne, among others.
“It shows that the cause is important when [people] like that want to step up and be involved,” said Soares. “I think people in this area will listen to those kind of high-profile athletes. We’re fortunate as athletes to have a platform that we can have a voice and people will listen.”
As a sports fan himself, Soares understands the impact athletes can have on children when they may be less inclined to listen to traditional authority figures.
“I’m still a fan and I still look up to athletes even though I am one,” he said. “I can understand that you listen to people that you respect. Hopefully they listen to us.”
Through a series of public service announcements, an educational program, a website (www.bostonvsbullies.org), in-school assemblies and on-site programs, BOSTON vs. BULLIES aims to raise awareness of bullying while providing kids the necessary tools to stand strong. As the campaign kicks into high gear, Soares considers himself lucky to be involved.
“For me, it’s a very important cause,” he said. “I wanted to definitely get involved and fortunately I was able to.”