They did it for Eddie. Kids, coaches and neighborhood activists kicked off the 2010 season of the Sol Lain Flag Football League Saturday morning. But it was with heavy hearts that they dedicated this year’s opening ceremonies to Edward Garcia, the heart and soul of this league.
Garcia died in August at the age of 50, leaving a gaping hole on the Lower East Side. A tenant leader of the Vladeck Houses, a member of Community Board 3 and, most important, a mentor to hundreds of neighborhood children, Garcia was a beloved figure.
On Saturday, Garcia’s sister Marilou, the staff of the Henry Street Settlement, City Councilmember Margaret Chin, a rep from Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver’s office and other community leaders assembled on the Sol Lain Playground (at East Broadway & Henry Streets) to make a strong statement: Eddie’s dream will live on.
It was, understandably, an emotional morning for Marilou. Addressing the kids, she said, “let’s work to make sure Sol Lain stays together.” Chin, who provided funding to support the league this year, added, “We’re here to remember Coach Eddie and to have fun playing football.” As he watched the teams go through their pre-game drills, LES District Leader John Quinn talked about how much the neighborhood lost when it lost Garcia. “If those kids didn’t show up, Eddie would go find them,” Quinn said. “In a lot of cases, he was the only mentor in their lives.”
Henry Street Settlement acts as a “financial pass-through” sponsor for the Sol Lain league. Youth program administrators are helping Marilou take care of many of the logistical details necessary to keep the organization running. Down the road, some supporters hope Sol Lain will become an independent, non-profit organization with a board of directors.
Chin said there have been discussions about co-naming a playground or street in memory of Eddie Garcia. No decisions yet on which way they’ll go.