From Left to Right: GFL Founders Minnie Evans, Venera Gashi and Lisa Ciardi

Lisa Ciardi, Minnie Evans and Venera Gashi were exhilarated. They had just won their first soccer tournament, having played six hours in a cold, driving May rain at Montclair State University. They were entitled to enjoy their athletic accomplishments as soccer “playing” moms, particularly since they had taken up soccer at age 30 something less than two years ago. But more important than the medals around their necks was the knowledge that their team had helped raise several thousand dollars for fitness programs for women undergoing breast cancer treatment – the real goal of the tournament. Thus, the formation of Goals for Life, Inc. a grass-roots effort of three Essex County, New Jersey women whose energy and kindness will benefit others for years to come.

Lisa, Minnie and Venera came to play soccer after watching children from the sidelines for several years. In the fall of 1998, Lisa circulated a petition to friends and acquaintances at her three children’s schools in Montclair, New Jersey, and within weeks, more than a dozen women, many who had never kicked a soccer ball, were learning the game. Today, more than 200 women from the greater Montclair area are in leagues, taking clinics and attending summer soccer camps, thanks to Lisa’s first petition.

Major media picked up on the story of moms taking to the soccer fields in Montclair. Articles ran in The New York Times and Newark Star-Ledger; features aired on Lifetime and MSG networks and on local television news shows out of New York City. In the Fall of 2001, Simon & Schuster published a book centering on the Montclair soccer moms called Alive and Kicking, written by New York Times sports columnist and Montclair resident Harvey Araton.

“Goals for Life was created over a cup of coffee, a well-played soccer game, lots of conversation and a rainy tournament for breast cancer,” says Lisa. “I believe all one needs to form a group is a trigger, and the rest falls into place. Goals For Life mimics this concept. People in general want to help and be needed in some capacity; everyone has a talent to bring a project together.”

Minnie adds: “After the Montclair State tournament, I realized how much I love playing soccer and how many wonderful new friends I have made in such a short time. And playing in that tournament and knowing that the proceeds were going to such an important cause really made me think that this could be something big.”

“Most of us look for an opportunity to make a difference in our surroundings,” Venera continues. “We found a way to do just that. Through soccer, a game we love for the camaraderie and exercise, we are able to bring awareness and raise funds for a worthy cause. We all know the saying, “pray for a better day. We want to ‘play’ for a better day.” Lisa adds: “The women involved in Goals for Life are all willing to lend their time and energy for serious causes. I believe the self-satisfaction of being a giving individual for a cause keeps people interested, concerned and motivated to help. And through the hard work, laughter, and some tears, fundraisers are born, and life is precious again.

“Goals for Life will blossom due to the dedication and enthusiasm we all have for it.”

Goals for Life was created over a cup of coffee, a well-played soccer game, lots of conversation and a rainy tournament for breast cancer.”

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