Rising to the cause: Team honors O’odham community with unique jerseys

Phoenix Rising FC’s Solomon Asante shows off his Indigenous Peoples’ Day warm-up jersey during pregame. (Photo courtesy of Ashley Orellana/Phoenix Rising)

PHOENIX – Depicting history, culture and community within one jersey is unique. Making all proceeds from the sale of that jersey go toward supporting Native American families and children who have been displaced is even more special.

Before the Phoenix Rising notched its second straight shutout by blanking the Oakland Roots 1-0 Saturday night at Wild Horse Pass, the team warmed up in high fashion by wearing T-shirts designed to pay homage to the O’odham people and the land on which the stadium sits.

Jaime Jackson, a graphic artist from the Gila River Indian Community (GRIC) and a Phoenix Rising supporter, helped create the poignant jerseys for the team to wear while warming up in honor of Indigenous Peoples’ Day.

“This is my first time working with Phoenix Rising,” Jackson said. “I loved the idea of jumping on the opportunity to chip in and do what I could for the community and for the organization.”

The jersey is the center for many things, including an outlet for the GRIC message as well as offering a way to give back to the community by donating all proceeds of the shirt to Three Precious Miracles, a non-profit organization that helps provide support and care for families of displaced Native American children.

“I’ve actually worked with them before,” Jackson said. “They’re a great organization that has been in the community for a while, which is something I can get behind.”

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Jackson also said he has a great relationship with Elisia Manuel, the president and founder of Three Precious Miracles, and has helped her out previously with designing the non-profit organization’s logo.

Manuel created a family of her own as well as a family within her non-profit. She has come a long way with her organization and this collaboration with Jackson and the Rising will only help the non-profit grow.

“We’re extremely happy and grateful that the proceeds from the jerseys will be donated to our organization,” Manuel said. “It will be helping provide cultural experiences for Indigenous and Native American children, in order to help them stay connected to their culture.”

The non-profit provides basic resources to children, as well as supporting foster care and kinship families through systems navigation and involvement.

“I also had experience with going through kinship care,” Manuel said. “It’s really important to me to continue to support children when their parents aren’t available … All for the end goal of being reunited with their children.”

For members within the GRIC and the non-profit, their help has really made an impact on Arizona and the rest of their communities.

“It has been such an honor to have the opportunity to impact my community, cultivate identity & provide the necessary resources our kids need to succeed in school to be great future leaders,” Jennifer Villalobas, an impact volunteer and a Board Member for Three Precious Miracles, said on the company’s website.

During the Rising’s nailbiter against Oakland Saturday, many fans were walking around the stadium and cheering on the team while wearing their new Phoenix Rising Indigenous Day warm-up jerseys.

“This whole process has just been a really incredible time,” Jackson said. “It was really something good and I love the way the jerseys came out.”

All jerseys feature the No. 7 on the back to support and represent the seven different districts within the Gila River Indian Community. Also featured on the bottom half of the jersey are modernized river waves, since water is such a significant factor to the community.

Featured on the chest, a calendar stick and a warrior’s club signify a new era with the Rising and the Gila River Indian Community, as well as protection to the people. (Photo courtesy of Ashley Orellana/Phoenix Rising)

“There’s also a calendar stick and a warriors club that comes to an X on the chest of the jersey,” Jackson said. “The calendar stick marks the occasion of Phoenix Rising coming to Gila River and the warriors club represents the presence from the team on the field.

“I think the idea of a jersey design was really cool. The Phoenix Rising did an excellent job presenting the idea and making it possible.”

Seeing the Phoenix Rising pay homage to the Native community is special for many reasons.

“It’s really cool that we’re raising awareness for not just foster children but Indigenous people as a whole,” Manuel said. “It’s just a huge honor to be part of it in any way we could.”

Miles Aronson Mi-les Air-uhn-suhn
Sports Visual Journalist, Phoenix

Miles Aronson expects to graduate in May 2023 with a bachelor’s degree in sports journalism. Aronson is working for the Phoenix news and sports bureaus.