Jon Busch makes his living by saving goals for Major League Soccer’s San Jose Earthquakes. But the former Charlotte 49ers goalkeeper is just as passionate about a group of teammates whose goal it is to save other people’s lives.
Over the past four years, Busch, a 13-year Major League Soccer veteran, has strengthened his ties with the Navy SEAL Foundation – a charitable organization that supports the Naval Special Warfare community, including Navy SEALS and its families – through the Saves for SEALS program.
With the Earthquakes as a partner, Busch co-sponsors several programs to raise money for the Navy SEAL Foundation: through special seating ticket sales for San Jose home games, the auctioning of equipment worn by Busch, and monetary contributions made by Busch and the team for every save he makes during the regular season and playoffs.
Busch donates $50 for every save he makes, an amount matched by the Earthquakes.
Since 2011, Busch estimates the Saves for SEALS program has raised somewhere between $30,000 and $40,000. Busch takes special pride in getting to personally present the foundation with checks at its Virginia Beach office.
“For me it resonated with me in that these were guys that go in and do their business,” said Busch, who played at Charlotte from 1994-96. “They don’t get any recognition and they don’t want any. They do their job and go home.
“I don’t look for fanfare as a player or for individual accolades. I just want to help the team win and go home and enjoy my life. These guys live their lives the way I want to live my life.”
A native of New York City, Busch’s military-themed charitable actions were inspired by the 9/11 attacks, in which a firefighter cousin of his was killed in one of the World Trade Center towers.
At that time, Busch’s MLS career was just about to get started. After finishing his career at Charlotte, which made its first College Cup appearance in 1996 with his help, Busch played five years in the A-League, an American soccer league that was rebranded as the USL First Division in 2004.
Busch debuted in the MLS with Columbus in 2002 and played for the Crew for five seasons. He played three years with the Chicago Fire and was named MLS Goalkeeper of the Year in 2008. He joined the Earthquakes in 2010.
Busch says that every team he’s played for had charities it supported, whether it was education for youth, military causes, or something else. Throwing support behind the Navy SEALS Foundation is the first time Busch has been so entrenched.
In 2011, the 10-year anniversary of 9/11 attacks, Busch approached Earthquake officials about supporting the cause. Busch says he didn’t have a concept for how he wanted to help but that conversations with the Foundation helped shape its course.
The first season, a pair of Busch’s game-used cleats and a pair of gloves were auctioned off for more than $4,000.
Last year, Busch began contributing his own money for every time he stopped a shot on goal. All together, the Saves for SEALS program raised $18,000 in 2013. Its goal is to raise $25,000 this season.
“I wanted to go back and personally hand over that check of $18,000,” said Busch, whose brother, Matt, lives in the Virginia Beach area. “I’ve had SEALS reach out to me through care packages or phone calls. Guys live out here (in San Jose) and show up for games and approach me after a game and say thank you. Everybody in that community knows my name and know what I do. I don’t think I do enough but try to do a little more each year.”
Busch and his wife, Nikki, have been married almost 10 years. They live in California and occasionally get back to the East coast around the holidays.
Busch says he has limited contact with people in the UNC Charlotte community but has started following the men’s soccer team again in recent years through social media.
“We had a great group when I was there,” said Busch. “And it’s great to see them climbing the soccer mountain again.”