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Celebrate the Tatas Tournament Raises $40,000

By USASA Communications, 10/27/21, 11:00AM CDT

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Darius Ejlali, North Carolina Adult Soccer Association's Executive Director, shares the origin story of this inspirational tournament

9 years ago, while I was running USASA Region III U-23 Men's Regionals, I met Talia Goldman.

She was the mother of a player and she was wanting some answers. I asked if she was the coach or team manager? She responded that she was just a mom and wanted some answers about a match her son was playing in...

I responded that this was an adult tournament and I only interact with the coaches, state reps or team managers. 

That didn't sit well with Talia and we had a spirited conversation. Later, we ran into one another at the hotel and struck up a more friendly conversation, which she revealed that she was a fund raiser for Breast Cancer research through an organization, Hadassah.
On the drive home (9 hours) I had a lot of time to think. This was a time when NCASA was ramping up our efforts to engage our women athletes. The idea to hold a women's soccer tournament and tie it to a cause women would get behind just seemed like a great idea. I called NCASA's Women's commissioner, Alexandra Vidaurri and ran the idea by her, then called Talia and ran the idea by her and we all loved the concept.

Talked to the NCASA President, he loved the idea, he took it to the board and the NCASA board fully endorsed moving forward. The trio of Talia Goldman, Alex Vidaurri and myself cultivate this idea into what it has become.

After building the budget, the event didn't even look self-sufficient, much less being able to donate money toward the cause. So we reached out to USASA and applied for a grant to assist with the operational costs around the event. USASA granted our Celebrate the Tatas two years in a row which helped us establish the event and attract more teams and interests. 

The event grew. We established more ways of raising money around the tournament. Not only could the teams win the tournament in a very traditional soccer manner but we also added a more significant trophy to win and that is the Big Pink Bra Award! The Big Pink Bra Award is literally a huge, lacy Pink Bra mounted on a plaque acknowledging the team that had raised the most money. 

The next big step for the Celebrate the Tatas was adding our Saturday night dinner/party/raffle event. We would find a local restaurant to host the tournament dinner (players paid for their dinner and drinks), and the restaurant would donate 10% of gross receipts. Talia Goldman would gather items to raffle. Gifts range  from a day spa certificate, jewelry, bath robes, to gift cards, soccer apparel, cooking lessons and autographed books, just to name a few. The ladies had a great time, the dinner brought all of us together in the middle of a tournament and the raffles raises well over a grand each year.

Teams were registering with team names like Cleats and Cleavage, Boo Bee Ballers, Hakuna Ma Tatas, Treasured Chests, Rack Attack, Breast Friends United and others. Along with the wild names, teams came with uniforms to reflect the team's spirit, like bra sizes for their jersey numbers, or jerseys painted with hand prints on their chest, or the team Treasured Chest playing with a Pirate theme like sewn parrots on their shoulders.

The event had taken on a life of its own. Celebrate the Tatas Tournament of Champions had become a celebration of play and giving.

Restaurants and health food grocers wanted to donate food instead of making a financial donation. So we began to feed the players breakfast, snacks, and lunch. Between the grocers and the restaurants, we were providing, water, energy bars, fruit, bagels, pasta, salads, sandwiches and more.

Hospitals got involved and donated trainers. At lunchtime, we would have health advocacy speakers, doctors and local health directors speak to the tournament. We invited a mobile mammogram unit out and health vendors wanted to set up a booths. 

We were really worried about missing 2020 but 2021 turned out to be HUGE!

2021 we had more registered teams than previous years with a large competitive division and the rest recreational.

Our fund raiser, Talia Goldman started pursuing bigger donors, medical offices and companies that support health initiatives.

This past year we had multiple health professionals setting up booths. Dr. Matt Locker spoke on the importance of mammograms and early detection during lunch.

NCASA held the event October 2-3, 2021 right outside of Charlotte, North Carolina in Huntersville. Great weather, fantastic games and a lot of Fun! But most importantly, we raised over $40,000. All proceeds will be divided between two hospitals; the Levine Cancer Institute and Novant Health Cancer Center for UNINSURED and UNDER INSURED women to have access to free mammograms.