Zuni Youth Enrichment Project and New Mexico United Distribute 100 Physical Activity Kits to Local Youth

ZUNI, NM (Jan. 19, 2021) — On Friday, Jan. 8, New Mexico United joined the nonprofit Zuni Youth Enrichment Project to distribute 100 physical activity kits to local youth in New Mexico’s Zuni Pueblo. The Albuquerque-based pro soccer club and its Somos Unidos (“We Are United”) Foundation were on the last leg of a monthlong holiday tour to deliver soccer supplies to rural areas of the state.

At Zuni, New Mexico United and ZYEP staff safely distributed Puma backpacks, Puma soccer balls, and T-Mobile water bottles to families. According to Joe Claunch, ZYEP’s executive director, advance registration for the 100 kits filled within one hour.

What’s more, former player David Estrada — now a high-performance coach and scout, as well as community relations manager for the Somos Unidos Foundation — took extra time to play ball with some of Zuni’s most promising young soccer players.

“The kids were really excited,” Claunch said. “This opportunity was a big deal for them, and some of them cried tears of joy when they found out about it. David is passionate about the sport and working with kids, and he really poured into them — the kids didn’t want to leave.”

During his 11 years as a player, Estrada was named Humanitarian of the Year four times. He supports the Somos Unidos Foundation’s efforts in increasing access to soccer, providing high level training to youth at no cost to them through the HPP program, and building positive outcomes in communities across New Mexico.

“Being able to travel to the Zuni Pueblo in the last stop of our Holiday Tour gave us an opportunity to continue our mission of showing that this team is for all New Mexicans,” Estrada said. “It was beautiful to see some of the kids from the Zuni Youth Enrichment Project wear their United gear with pride. I am hopeful that this will be the first of many visits to continue to grow the game and cultivate meaningful relationships throughout the state.”

For the ZYEP team, this distribution also marked another milestone for the nonprofit organization as it seeks to continue serving children and families despite the ongoing challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic. Since March 2020, ZYEP has distributed more than 3,500 wellness kits to Zuni youth, with different themes and contents.

“This spring, when we realized it was no longer safe to bring together large groups of kids, our team quickly adapted operations and our approach to meet the moment,” Claunch said. “Instead of offering large in-person youth programs, as we have for more than 10 years, we pivoted to distributing these wellness kits. Each is thoughtfully designed to promote our young people’s health and well-being during this difficult time.”

In keeping with ZYEP’s holistic approach, these kits have included nutrition, physical activity, art, mental health, and cultural resources that encourage healthy lifestyles. The organization partnered with 20 funding organizations and hundreds of individual donors to make the initiative possible, and Claunch said the kits are having a meaningful impact.

“Our assessments show that the wellness kits are bringing families closer together while they engage in healthy activities, they’re increasing youth participants’ intake of fruits and vegetables, and they’re contributing to positive experiences while youth must remain safe at home,” he explained. “We’re committed to continuing these efforts, because the pandemic has been so hard on our kids. They need somewhere to go and something to do. When we see them, they ask us if we can open up our community park space; it’s hard to tell them that it’s not safe yet, but we will open as soon as it is.

“Zuni is one of the tightest knit communities you’ll find, and Covid has impacted our ability to gather,” he continued. “So our distributions are one small way we can still see each other and connect.”

Claunch noted that local youth particularly enjoy the physical wellness kits, like this month’s kit from New Mexico United. In recent months, physical wellness distributions have included pedometers, exercise mats, sport balls, and a youth exercise poster designed by a

Zuni artist that features Zuni Clan figures performing age-appropriate movements.

During summer 2020, ZYEP partnered with New Mexico United to have one of its players, Saalih Muhammad, perform the poster’s physical activities: httpss://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l6EhiDspz-0&t.

To learn more about the Zuni Youth Enrichment Project and its programs, and for information about making donations, partnering with ZYEP, and volunteering, call (505) 782-8000 or visit zyep.org. And, to stay up to date on the latest news and events, follow the nonprofit youth organization on Facebook (/zuniyouthenrichmentproject), Instagram (@zuniyouthenrichmentproject), and YouTube (/ZuniYouth).

Founded in 2009, the nonprofit Zuni Youth Enrichment Project is dedicated to promoting resilience among Zuni youth so they will grow into strong, healthy adults who are connected with Zuni traditions. ZYEP fulfills its mission by providing positive role models, enriching programs, and nurturing spaces that contribute to the healthy development of Zuni youth. ZYEP strives to provide every child with the encouragement and opportunities they need to reach their full potential.