Rebuilding Lake Street becomes soccer teams’ cause

Kelsey Hans

Lakeville’s Kelsey Hans helps organize fundraiser

Blake finished third in the 2019 state Class A girls soccer tournament in its first season under head coach Kelsey Hans.

Eight months later that seems like an afterthought, and Hans and her players don’t mind after taking on a project bigger than soccer. Last week the Blake program spearheaded a fundraiser to support reconstruction in the Lake Street area of Minneapolis that was torn apart by rioting following the death of George Floyd.

The last month has been an eye-opener for Hans, one of the best high school players to come through Lakeville, and the members of her Blake team. Not too long ago – say, the 2000s, when Hans played high school and college soccer – high school athletes might have been aware of racial injustices, but those discussions rarely reached the locker room. The paths just didn’t cross.

Everything has changed in the month since Floyd’s death while in police custody. Four Minneapolis officers were fired and face criminal charges. The events have prompted a nationwide debate about the role of police in society.

“These issues didn’t come up (in the locker room) when I played,” said Hans, a 2004 Lakeville High School graduate and the Minnesota Ms. Soccer award winner in 2003. “Looking back, maybe they did a little bit at Northwestern (University, where she played in college), but they should have been talked about more. Hopefully, that’s going to happen now. It’s a critical time for the kids who are in high school and college now – they’re going to have the opportunity to change things.”

College athletes in California organized a fundraiser that collected about $80,000 for Black Lives Matter. Upon hearing about that, Hans texted Blake’s 2020 girls soccer captains (Bailey Abraham, Cate Moe, Amelia Reyes and Rachel Winkey) and asked if they would like to do something similar.

“We thought it would mostly involve Blake teams, but I also reached out to the Edina head coach because of my connections there,” said Hans, the activities coordinator at Edina High School. “Then our captains reached out to girls they knew at other high schools and club teams.”

Approximately 10 high school teams, including the Eagan girls, and several club teams took part in the June 17 fundraiser, in which participants ran, walked, biked or swam 8.46 miles with the goal of raising at least $8,460.

Derek Chauvin, a 19-year veteran of the Minneapolis Police Department, has been charged with second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in Floyd’s death. A video depicted Chauvin kneeling on Floyd’s neck for what prosecutors said was 8 minutes, 46 seconds (they now say it was 7:46). Floyd had been stopped after an employee of a store in south Minneapolis called police to report a counterfeit bill was used to buy cigarettes.

As of Tuesday afternoon, a GoFundMe page that Hans opened reported almost $10,700 in donations for the Lake Street Council, one of several organizations raising money to rebuild Minneapolis businesses that were damaged or destroyed by the rioting that followed Floyd’s death.

Early in the process, Hans and her players decided they wanted the money they raised to go to local organizations instead of national ones. How the funds are used will be up to the Lake Street Council, but Hans said “they’ve told us it will go to helping rebuild businesses on Lake Street.”

Hans has already taken Sydney, at 5 the eldest of her two daughters, to the scene of some of the worst damage in Minneapolis and already has started the discussion about what happened and why it happened.

“We went down to Lake Street and walked around a little bit,” Hans said. “It’s hard to explain to a 5-year-old, but we talked about how sometimes people aren’t treated the way we’d like to see them treated.”

After graduating from Northwestern, Hans earned a master’s degree in conservation biology from the University of Michigan. She worked in Seattle as a wildlife biologist before returning to Minnesota. Hans, her husband Marc and their two daughters live in Minneapolis.

She developed a passion for coaching. Before taking over the Blake program Hans was an assistant coach for the Edina girls soccer team. But she found the demands of her career were incompatible with coaching. Hans changed careers, venturing into athletic administration. “I’ll still be able to take my daughters to wildlife areas to identify birds and trees,” she said.

But the soccer team has more work to do. Hans said her players’ biggest takeaway from the fundraising effort was they have a platform they can use to make a difference. Assuming the pandemic allows a high school soccer season in the fall, the Blake girls are likely to take on other community projects, such as food drives at home games.

“We have a soccer camp scheduled for late July, and the guidance we’re getting from the state makes it look like we’ll be able to have it,” Hans said. “My gut tells me we’re going to have a high school season in the fall. It might not look the way it did before, but I think we’re going to have a season.”

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