Taylor Ross is more than a junior student athlete excelling on the women’s soccer team, she is a philanthropist with her mind set on using her platform to help bring positivity to the lives of others with her non-profit organization, Cleats Count.
The junior Mapleville, Rhode Island native and Burrillville High School graduate had a good season for the women’s soccer team this year, tallying four goals and one assist for a total of nine points. However, her love for the world’s most popular game continues to travel well beyond the University of Rhode Island soccer complex. The growth of Ross’s organization has been monumental ever since she established the nonprofit in December of 2015.
Ross, a marketing major, has been taking the lessons she has learned in the classroom, and has been putting them to good use with the growth and expansion of her organization. Her vision and execution has caused many people to rally behind her.
“I am not just in college taking classes, but I’m in college taking classes and taking stuff I am learning and applying it to Cleats Count everyday,” Ross said. “To be able to wake up and be creative and work with business, and learn things every day is so much fun. Cleats Count has brought so much happiness to me.”
Ross continues to have a large presence on social media with Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages for Cleats Count. They showcase apparel, pictures from her trip last April to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, some of the cleats that have been donated and videos of the work she puts into the valued organization. For every piece of apparel sold on her Cleats Count website a new pair of cleats is purchased for a soccer lover somewhere else in the world. Starting as an idea she had thought of as a sophomore student athlete here at URI, Cleats Count has expanded more than Ross herself ever imagined.
“I would say that the reach of it has grown the most, it started off reaching out to my friends and my family, but where it is at now, getting contacts from strangers and people from all over the country, people all over the world, pro teams,” Ross said. “It has really been exciting so far and I am really excited to see where it’s going to go.”
Most recently, Ross has received the Ben Mondor Community Service Award for her creativity and helping individuals all over the world from Words Unlimited in late February. Ross, whose goal is to ultimately make four or five trips a year, has many future plans for the organization that has changed the lives of people all over the country, one pair of cleats at a time.
“To be not only able to bring the soccer cleats but bring soccer balls, and help build fields kind of gives the boys and girls places to go so they can be safe, have fun, and help give them opportunities,” Ross said of her mission. “In terms of the brand itself my goal is to be a brand that is associated with the soccer community, so that when someone sees the logo they think oh that’s Cleats Count and they think of the entire soccer world knowing what it is”.
Ross said her experiences traveling to Ethiopia last year, and seeing how significant a role her organization has made in the lives of others, has changed her daily perception about how important soccer is to people all over the world – as well as to herself.
“Every experience I have had with Cleats Count so far, especially actually traveling and delivering the cleats has been so eye opening,” Ross said. “As you get older, you see the fire burn out in a lot of people about the sport they love, they don’t love it like they used to. And having Cleats Count around has showed me how much soccer really does mean to me, and I love admitting that it really is my favorite thing ever.”
This summer, Ross will be joined by the International Sports Foundation, who she has been working with to bring cleats and help create soccer fields in Kenya. Similar to her trip to Ethiopia last year, Ross will be documenting her time there on social media so everyone knows how much of a difference they have made from their cleat donations. Ross knows that the community she is a part of here at URI has been a major component of the success Cleats Count has enjoyed and continues to have in the world.
“My team here at URI and even the entire Rams community has been amazing,” Ross said. “[From] so many athletes purchasing merchandise and getting me cleats for the boys and girls, to people spreading the word and posting on social media, and coaches getting involved. You think at first it is going to be hard to get everyone behind something, but seeing it get where it is today I am just really proud to be able to say I go to URI.”