Abby Wambach wows crowd at Fund for Women & Girls luncheon

Apr 08, 2016

Originally published by The Hour on Friday, April 8, 2016・ By Chris Bosak, Hour Staff Writer

GREENWICH — The fascination was clear to see.

All eyes were on retired soccer star Abby Wambach. Young girls in soccer jerseys, as well as men and women in business attire, clamored to be photographed with the 2012 FIFA World Player of the Year. Wambach, clad in black pants and shirt and white jacket, obliged all of the requests, even shooting selfies with groups of girls.

“The collective swoon that happens when Abby enters a room transcends sports,” said Nancy Armstrong, producer of “Makers,” who introduced Wambach to the crowd.

Wambach was the featured speaker at the Fairfield County’s Community Foundation Fund for Women & Girls’ Annual Luncheon held Thursday afternoon at the Hyatt Regency in Greenwich. About 800 people attended the event, which serves as a major fundraiser for the Fund for Women & Girls. Silent auction items, including signed soccer balls and jerseys, added to the Fund’s coffers.

FWG Luncheon Abby Wamback
Hour Photo by Erik Trautmann

Fairfield’s Ellie Stefanowicz, 8, was one of the many young soccer players to meet Wambach. Stefanowicz, whose mother played against Wambach in college, summed up what most of the girls likely thought.

“It was really cool,” she said.

Wambach had plenty of advice directed at budding soccer stars, but certainly applicable to the general audience.

“No matter what you dream of … you have to endure the process to get the outcome. It’s about the sacrifices you make,” she said.

“My philosophy on life is to dream big. Some chase their dreams and some chase the path of least resistance. I’m not that way. I like the resistance.”

Later she added: “Do things every single day to make yourself proud.”

When asked by Norwalk High School honor student Imelda Lazaro about being a leader, Wambach replied: “Don’t ever let anyone tell you what you can or can’t do.”

Wambach, a known advocate for equality, then praised the current U.S. Women’s Soccer Team for fighting for pay equality compared to the men’s team.

“The women win and the men … well, you know. Women should be getting paid, not only equal but even more,” she said. “I’m proud of them for putting themselves out there.”

Wambach started her talk by addressing what she described as “the elephant in the room.” She was arrested Saturday on DUI charges and she also admitted to trying cocaine and marijuana. Knowing it would be on everyone’s mind, she kept her speaking engagements this week. She spoke at the University of Kentucky on Tuesday.

“I learned a lot this week,” she told the crowd, using words such as shameful and embarrassing to describe her actions. She added that she would not change anything, even if she could.

“Everything we do and the decisions we make determine who we are,” she said.

“Mistakes are sometimes the best thing that can happen to you. Everyone — children, young adults, adults can learn from other people’s mistakes. Please learn from this one.”

Hour Photo by Erik Trautmann
Hour Photo by Erik Trautmann

Fund for Women & Girls is a fund of Norwalk-based FCCF that serves females aged 5 to 90 in the 22 municipalities in Fairfield County.

Since 1998 it has invested more than $5 million and helped more than 9,000 women and girls. The theme of Thursday’s luncheon was “Women & Girls = Strength, Resilience, Power.”

“As I look around I cannot image a more appropriate theme,”

Juanita James, president and CEO of FCCF, said. “What makes this all so powerful is that we are doing it together. One of the things I’ve learned is that the generosity of so many people here, in dollars and time, is truly remarkable.”

To put a face to the program, two recipients of support from the Fund’s Family Economic Security Program (FESP)spoke the crowd. Proceeds from the Annual Luncheon support FESP at Housatonic Community College. Heather Harrick is a single mother who is also working full time as an orthodontic assistant and taking dental hygienist classes at Housatonic Community College. FESP has helped her cover expenses for her car and for classes not eligible by financial aid, as well as offered advice on what classes to take. She said many people discouraged her from going to school.

She is able to handle being a mother, worker and student “all with the help of FESP.”

Regina Scates is a mother of three, full time firefighter and student taking classes toward getting a degree in emergency management.

“I’m confident I will get there, but it hasn’t been an easy road for me,” she said.

“Now, thanks to FESP, I have a strong support group. FESP coaches push and encourage me.”

Wambach referred to the speeches by Harrick and Scates, and the theme of the luncheon overall, as “bad ass.”

“The entire lunch has been so inspiring,” she said. “These events really make me want to knock on every door in Washington and fight for equality.

Learn more about the Fund for Women & Girls and our Family Economic Security Program.