What makes an El Pasoan? Is it being born here? Does it involve an extended stay in the city? If you transport yourself away do you lose that distinguishing factor? El Paso is a sense of community, it’s a handshake deal, a hug between strangers … it is an identity. When hate traveled over 800 miles to the Sun City, our people rallied and met hate with love and compassion. In the midst of this a newcomer to the Borderland stepped up and went beyond his duties as a professional athlete. He, along with a plethora of other Locomotive players embodied the spirit of this region. Sebastian Velasquez became what it means to be from El Chuco.
Velasquez joined EP Locomotive on July 9th. The creative midfielder spent time in the MLS and with other USL clubs before being added to the Locomotive roster. El Paso and the strong soccer community here welcomed him in as one of their own. Unbeknown to all, Velasquez and the community would be called upon to help one another in their time of need.
The tragedy that transpired on August 3rd shocked the nation and the world. When our city was throbbing, and had its heart broken, its citizens, its people, and our newest El Pasoans swiftly went into action.
Images of Locomotive players in line to give blood started circulating hours after the call for donations was sang across the city. Players were seen giving out water and snacks to those waiting in line who were willing to give a piece of themselves so that their neighbors, friends, brothers and sisters could live.
El Paso is different. We know our neighbors; the degree of separation in our city is microscopic. We all know someone’s cousin, or someone’s uncle who was our coach … We are so tight knit that when one of us hurts, we all hurt.
“All soccer players at one point in their early soccer playing days or another had to hold a fundraiser for uniforms, club fees, tournaments or anything else that was needed. I can’t even imagine what they all went through. I absolutely hate that they had to experience that as kids, and adults,” commented Velasquez, revisiting that dreadful Saturday that led to him springing into action in the community. When hate came to the Sun City, it affected and altered the lives of 22 families. Some of those lives included a local youth soccer club who at the time were holding a fundraiser at that Walmart.
“That’s where I saw a chance to take the initiative and step in. Let me put soccer aside and be a father, a human being and help this community. At the end of the day this isn’t just me, there are a lot of people involved and the response has been amazing,” continued Velasquez who found and helped promote an existing GoFundMe campaign established to raise funds for the team and their two coaches who were unfortunately shot.
“I didn’t create the campaign, but when I came across it, I knew I could do something. After I tweeted it out, it just spread. I was getting calls from other professional players across the world who wanted to help.” Help they did, the initial campaign aimed to raise $5,000. Four days after the campaign was live, it has already raised over $28,000 and is still climbing. Players from USL, MLS and from all around the world have donated to the cause and helped people they have never met.
Locomotive players didn’t stop there, they answered the call of a community in need and stepped up once more. The El Paso Legends Soccer game raised over $16,000 in charitable donations for the victims of the August 3rd attack and united the community once again. The event was hosted at the Student Activities Complex in far east El Paso and featured a friendly match amongst some of El Paso’s greatest soccer stars of the past. Sebastian and his teammates heavily promoted and attended the match the very same day they arrived back in town from an away match. The heavy representation of Locomotive players and the smiles they brought to the hundreds in attendance provided a beacon of light in a community blanketed in darkness.
The road to healing is a long one but it is made better by finding the helpers in the fog of tragedy. Unity and a helping hand soften the blow. When one El Pasoan hurts, we all hurt. When one El Pasoan needs help, the city stands up. When a professional soccer player moves to the Sun City, he becomes one of us. El Paso is special. El Paso is community. El Paso is home. El Paso is strong.