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Real Salt Lake Fan Jonah Gomez
Don’t get us wrong: Leo’s a fine mascot. But the real lion’s heart belongs to a pint-size soccer player named Jonah Gomez, who hasn’t let a rare blood disease—sickle hemoglobin D disease and pyruvate kinase deficiency, to be precise—affect his passion for Real Salt Lake. And the team has responded in kind, helping organize fundraisers and other events for the tiny hero, who has undergone open-heart surgery and is waiting for a bone-marrow donor. The team’s players have all been tested to see if they’re a match—and you should be, too: Go to DKMSAmericas.org for more information.
Best Fight Fan
When you talk to Taylor Leavitt about pro mixed martial arts or pro boxing—the two sports he and the other four commissioners of the Pete Suazo Utah Athletic Commission oversee—his face lights up with a fan’s passion. Describing his enthusiasm as “hokey,” Leavitt nevertheless displays an extremely in-depth knowledge of local fighters and fight lore. Watch him at work at a fight card, and he carries his authority with a gentle sincerity that has otherwise testy fighters listening attentively. As long as Leavitt is involved with the PSUAC, fighters know they have at least one voice in the commission who’s got their backs.
Best Little Soccer Club
In West Valley City, on Tuesday and Thursday nights, Latino children gather in a public park to pursue their dream of one day playing for Real Salt Lake. Their tutors and mentors are often their own undocumented fathers, organized by a father and son duo who also do not have citizenship. When City Weekly drew attention to their struggles to educate, discipline and ultimately serve Latino youth through soccer, a donor came forward with nets and balls. Along with dignity and focus, Pride brings a sense of hope to a community that has long been without such expectations.
Best Inspirational Sports Story
Utah Mexican Bobsled Team
In 2010, Mexican athlete Juan Jose Carlos Ruiz set up the Mexican Bobsled & Skeleton foundation to encourage kids of Mexican descent in Utah to train to represent Mexico in the 2012 Youth Winter Olympics. Ruiz gathered 11 hopefuls, some of whom have never been to Mexico, to train in Park City. Four were chosen to represent Mexico in the Youth Olympics. One of them, now 16-year-old Mia Mora, has gone through homelessness with her mother to achieve dreams she never would have thought of just a few years ago.
Best Indie Football Team
For those of you looking for some football action between the regular NFL, college, high school and (if you can stomach it) the Blaze, Utah has one more team around, in the form of a Women’s Football Alliance team: the Utah Blitz. But don’t go looking for powder-puff or bikini-clad players; these women are real gridiron fighters, some of whom can and will hit and run as well as anyone playing college ball today. Their inclusion in the league has already spawned a second team in West Valley City, the Jynx, whom the Blitz will play twice during their third season.
Best Way to Remain Relevant
Landing somewhere between Project Runway and the Sundance Film Festival’s Labs series, Relevant is a unique model in the visual-arts world. This student-residency program simultaneously helps raise funds for the Kimball Arts Center during Park City’s Kimball Arts Festival and redefines how the center is transformative in the arts. The selected artists live in Park City for 10 days and are each paired with a mentor/established artist. They are given a theme, a budget and a deadline, then create a piece of art to be sold at the festival gala. It’s a stylish mix of stress, discovery, learning and growth.
Best Place to Learn to Write Good
SLCC Community Writing Center
It’s been 10 years since the Community Writing Center opened its doors, and these pencil-pushers celebrated with a little shindig in October 2011. In conjunction, the CWC published a collection incorporating community-created work spanning the decade of local expression that they’ve helped create. The center believes everyone has a voice, and the staff strive to help people find theirs through writing groups, workshops, one-on-one mentorships, thematic classes and more. This is the place to learn to dot your t’s and cross your i’s—or something like that.
210 E. 400 South, Suite 8, 801-957-2192, SLCC.edu/CWC
For his small, slight frame, you’d perhaps expect Jose Haro to be an artist or a dancer. He is both of these, but his artistry and footwork are dedicated to the sweet science of boxing, rather than more soulful endeavors. His steady advance as a pro-fighter has resulted in a six-win, no-loss record. With Utah’s boxing fans yearning for someone to root for, Haro just might be their man.
Best Museum Passion
The Leonardo Staff
After the Leonardo museum’s long-delayed opening in October 2011, it’s obvious how committed the staff is to breathing life into a concept that many were skeptical about. The enthusiastic volunteers who guide visitors around the interactive museum, and staff members who talk you through exhibits and activities all display the same smile of happiness that the museum has finally arrived.
209 E. 500 South, Salt Lake City, 801-531-9800, TheLeonardo.org
Best Ritualistic Feeling
Mudson, Masonic Temple
Does the thought of being a part of something as it’s unfolding make you all tingly? What if the experience took place in the Salt Lake Masonic Temple on South Temple? Now you’re listening. Mudson, a series of works-in-progress dance pieces, was based on New York City’s Judson showcases. Choreographers show pieces in a low-tech setting to see the audience’s reactions and receive feedback before taking them to a stage. In 2011, Ashley Anderson, Juan Aldape, Sam Hanson, Emily Haygeman and others conjured up ritualistic feelings in the main hall, which is adorned with Old World Christian crosses, former Masons’ photos and eerie masks—a perfect backdrop for art.