As many of you know, the club operate a partnership programme that allows overseas clubs to become an official Club Partner of Celtic and receive many benefits including access to the academy standard coaching curriculum, the opportunity for partner club’s teams to visit Celtic, to enjoy visits from coaches to the respective club and perhaps most important of all, the opportunity to host Celtic soccer camps/clinics. The club announced recently that they were planning a tour of Victoria and South Australia in April of this year for the first time. As with a similar piece written earlier, I was keen to speak to the people involved on the partnership side. It turns out that their story is very different to the others that we’ve discussed before on here. Something remarkable is happening on the other side of the world and the work that they do, is likely to remind you of a club from the east end of Glasgow.
After various emails back and forth across various timezones, I was able to speak to Kevin Milstein, the CEO of the Reagan Milstein Foundation, the main partner that the club will work with on their Aussie adventures. First we discussed the idea behind the foundation and Kevin was very open, brave and honest about why it was set up.
Reagan was a popular, healthy 14 year old boy, who loved sports, particularly football (soccer), and he wanted more than anything to make the world a better place. Reagan had an incredibly gentle and loving nature. Reagan had dreams of combining his love for sport and his passion for helping others. He wanted to coach a junior football team and build a career as a sports journalist. It only took one conversation with Reagan for people to feel better about the world. This was a kid who was going places, a kid that would have no trouble making his dreams come true with an exciting future ahead.
Tragically, Reagan never got the chance to realise his dreams. At only 14, he was injured in a scuba diving accident. Despite weeks of intensive care, Reagan never regained consciousness and passed away on 22nd July, 2010.
Losing Reagan left an enormous hole in all our lives. While Reagan’s family and friends struggled to come to terms with life without Reagan, the grief in the wider community helped us decide that we should harness this emotion and try to make a difference to the lives of others on Reagan’s behalf. The Reagan Milstein Foundation (RMF) was created on 25 November, 2010 (Reagan’s birthday) to pay tribute to Reagan, and to help others the way Reagan would have wanted us to.
I am very comfortable about speaking about Reagan. In fact, it’s my pleasure to bring him to your readers. That’s what RMF is all about ultimately. I think that you may have picked up in the videos that when Reagan left us he left us with a huge hole, as you can imagine. What were those 14 years all about? Who in the world, was never going to meet Reagan and just enjoy his company? So with that in mind RMF was born with Reagan’s 2 great loves of football and helping people.
I am amazed at the journey that Reagan’s name has taken and how many people speak of him that never met him. I couldn’t think of anything better for my little boy. I also have to point out that it took me some time to realise that Reagan left me with a special gift. He gave me the gift of meeting the most amazing, generous and community minded people in the world. You have no idea of how many incredible people are out there doing jobs behind the scenes to contribute to their communities. I have been honoured to meet even just a handful of such inspirational people.
You know, RMF has grown far beyond any dreams that we might have had for it which makes it almost too hard to see the future, however through my journeys with RMF I can see the power that a round ball has. It’s not about the EPL and the superstars, it’s about that African kid on a bare patch of field playing with his friends. It’s about that disabled girl that can enjoy playing a simple game with other children and just forgetting that she may be different in any way.
When you put that round ball on the ground between people you encourage respect, understanding and cooperation. It is so important in our communities. Football is a great leveller and it can be enjoyed on so many different levels. It’s not for nothing that it is the biggest game in the world. I hope that RMF can make a small difference to some children’s lives and teach others as to how they can also make a positive difference in the world in simple ways. We want to grow the RMF academies from here to provide funds for the work that we do but most importantly to bring football back to the people that count most, the average fan and player.
It’s obviously great to get the club out to Victoria and South Australia, I can imagine that the excitement is brewing? Have the regions ever had this type of chance before? How did the chance come about?
It’s the first time that such a massive football club as Celtic will be visiting regional Victoria and South Australia. There is certainly a buzz about it and I imagine that once school gets back, the noise will get louder. The clubs are very excited too and not just for the April tour, but also for what this might mean for them in the future. Apart from my role at RMF, I am also a community club president at North Caulfield, and when this opportunity came around to bring Celtic to Australia I already knew, from discussions with other presidents, that regional Australia always misses out. That’s why my aim was to bring the best to the regional centres.
Given that you’re keen to discuss the opportunities for the kids, are the main 9 elements of the coaching listed on your flyer, things that you had input into? 7 to 18 is a big age group, can this benefit all ages involved and again, did you have an input on that age range?
The aim of RMF academies is to bring opportunities to kids that would not normally be exposed to such events. So it was very important for me to make it as widely available as possible. I have no input into the football style, as you mentioned, but I certainly insisted on the age groupings. To make it as workable as possible the age groups are split up so that we have the juniors in the morning and the youths in the afternoon. Also, part of the package is that the Celtic coaches are able to do “coach the coach” sessions and, hopefully, begin a lifetime bond with the coaches they will be teaching. Another area that is close to my heart is the All Abilities section. I insist on a free of charge half day AA session with the Celtic coaches. It’s part of the RMF philosophy.
The chance for sponsorship is huge, what a carrot that must be? Do you have standout players already that you think might be making that journey to Glasgow or is there the chance that someone can surprise you?
I can’t say that I know the players that will be attending but I am sure that they will all be excited to make an impression. Hopefully we get surprised by many and they make the coaches’ choice really hard.
On the face of it, Celtic would be seen to be working in similar partnerships all over the world, how does your offering differ?
The RMF philosophy is to have a whole of the community approach. It’s not just about running sessions for a couple of days and then move to the next location. It’s about getting to know and learn about the communities that Celtic will be working with. The benefits will be immediate in the program that they provide across a wide range of players and, just as importantly, looking at the long term picture where these communities would be wanting them back for more. We want to make this a memorable event for the whole football community not just a select few.
Tell us about the ReBoot initiative?
For sure. RMF kicked off with the idea of recycling football boots and sending them to less fortunate communities around the world. It has since grown to collecting old and unused uniforms, donated balls, general football gear and even other sporting gear and placing them in communities in Australia and around the world. We accept donations of football gear from all over the country and urge people not to throw their old boots out. In fact, if you can’t get them to RMF, we ask you to donate them within your own community. You can’t believe how precious a second hand pair of boots can be to a less fortunate child. If you have any questions about donating football gear, feel free to call me.
You set up a charity partnership with Liverpool previously, how did that come about?
When Liverpool came to Melbourne about 4 years ago, they connected with us through a family friend you may have heard of, Daniel Garb, the Fox Sports commentator. We ran a short session with them and even got kids on to the ground with the players during their practise session at the MCG. During the tour, I was shocked one morning when opening my emails to see an invitation from LFC to be their charity partner in Australia. It took me about 12 hours for that to sink in. Who would say no?!? It was an honour beyond belief and all I could think of was that Reagan’s name was going to be associated with one of the most famous football clubs in the world. How proud would he be? Since then we have a working relationship with the LFC Foundation that we expect to develop in the coming years.
How do you fund this amazing foundation, is it through donations or sponsorship?
In terms of sponsorship, that’s a tricky one. Of course every charity is looking for $$ but not everyone can provide that. There are many ways that contributions can be made to RMF. We’re trying to create academies for the benefit of the community and trying to source sponsorship to get the coaches here. Anything that anyone can do is appreciated but please, if you’re anywhere near us, click on our site and get your children signed up, it’s sure to be a great experience for everyone involved, me included.
For most of us, that won’t be possible unfortunately but I’m sure you’d agree, that the work that Kevin and his team are doing is phenomenal. Click on the link to learn more, watch the video testimonials, it’s pretty humbling. I’m sure that there are thousands of us with old football gear clogging up a cupboard or attic somewhere that could be going to better use. Celtic couldn’t be working with a better foundation and undoubtedly Reagan would be buzzing with anticipation for the whole experience.
If you can help in any way, please do. If you can spread word about RMF, please do.