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10/02/2014 10:02 am ET Updated Nov 07, 2014
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Nonprofit Uses Sports to Promote Social Change

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At a young age, Lawrence Cann felt that he wanted to make a difference. Decades later he's at the top of his game as the founder of Street Soccer USA, an organization that uses sport to create social change.

Cann grew up in North Carolina playing sports, but he really felt the importance of it at age 9 when a fire destroyed his family's house. Playing soccer helped him maintain a sense of normalcy when his life was chaotic, and the support of the community created a "safety net" for his family.

Later, the Davidson College grad worked at a local soup kitchen, and was inspired to connect with people in a different way. In 2007, Street Soccer USA was born.

As a long-time athlete, Cann was able to marry his passion for soccer with his interest in helping people. "We use soccer to teach a curriculum of life and job skills, to help our participants to do better in school, to live healthier and for our adults to find and maintain employment," he said.

The program mentors homeless youth and adults through local games, which ultimately build confidence and create a positive structure. For Christopher Lodgson, Street Soccer USA was a game-changer. “I was homeless," he explained. "Meeting with Lawrence and the volunteers has changed my life. We began a process of self-improvement. When you complete the training, you feel empowered.”

Street Soccer USA currently serves 16 cities, but Cann is set on expanding it even further. “Volunteering and seeing the humanity of folks, you see that the difference is that they didn’t have the same safety net that I’ve had," he added. "Really what Street Soccer has been about is building that community, that safety net."

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