Internationals SC’s Ella Bard was honored by U.S. Soccer. (Photo courtesy of the Bard family)

Internationals SC and ECNL standout Ella Bard has been voted the winner of the 2021 SheBelieves Hero contest.

A passionate eco-warrior volunteering with community clean-up and recycling efforts in her hometown of Wadsworth, Ohio, Ella has shown tremendous work ethic, leadership and commitment to helping others.  Along with her environmental work, Ella also empowers others to use the power of their minds and the wisdom of their bodies through yoga and guided meditation.  She will receive complimentary travel, tickets, and an exclusive VIP experience to a future U.S. women’s national team match.

“I am so honored and grateful to be named the 2021 SheBelieves Hero,” Bard said. “This award would have never been possible without all of the amazing support that I got from so many people.  This was a team effort.  I promise to use this achievement as another way to inspire me to keep helping others.  Well done to all of the finalists.  I wish you all the best.  This is a dream come true!”

Bard’s work impressed former USWNT players.

“Ella’s entry was not only motivating and inspiring, but also she is making a huge impact in her community on and off the field,” said former U.S. women’s national team player Lindsay Tarpley, a member of the SheBelieves Hero Selection Committee. “She’s involved in several projects and initiatives that have the potential to be life-changing events.  Her vision, work ethic, and commitment are admirable and inspiring.  Congrats, Ella and continue to change the world!  And congratulations to all the finalists who are making a difference in the lives of others.  I have been fortunate to be part of this committee for several years and I am so proud to see the growth and impact that is being made across the country. Well done!”

In the four previous SheBelieves Hero contests, the winner was chosen before the annual SheBelieves Cup tournament so the winner could attend a match.  This year, due to the global pandemic, the decision was made to extend the contest to provide the opportunity for more nominations and to award the winner a trip for two to a future USWNT match once health and safety protocols allow.

“On behalf of the entire Internationals Soccer family, we congratulate Ella and are so thrilled for her and proud of her well-deserved recognition from U.S. Soccer as the SheBelieves Hero,” Internationals SC Club and ECNL director Keri Sarver said. “Ella is an inspiration to all of us as she dedicates herself to helping others and making a positive impact on our planet.  At such a young age, she is leading initiatives that will be felt for many generations to come.  On the field she is one of our most consistent and impactful performers for our U-14 ECNL team.  She leads by example day in and day out and exemplifies our club values of passion, love, and respect towards the game and towards others. Well done, Ella Bard!”

The SheBelieves Hero™ Selection Committee, comprised of former USWNT players Michelle Akers, Stephanie Cox, Tina Frimpong-Ellertson, Leslie Osborne and Tarpley, narrowed down the largest field of impressive submissions in SheBelieves Hero™ contest history to present fans with the five finalists.  The other four finalists, who all embody the SheBelieves spirit and feature inspiring stories, were: Astha BernardPrabhleen LambaAnna Tuuri, and Makayla Wilson.  U.S. Soccer applauds all the finalists and all those who participated for the incredible work they’re doing to make a positive impact in their communities.

“We are also so thankful for the SheBelieves platform as a way to inspire women and girls in sport and leadership roles,” Sarver added. “Ella is a fantastic representation of SheBelieves!”

The finalists’ stories were shared via social media and the general public was asked to vote on who best embodied the SheBelieves spirit, which is defined as a leader in their community, a confident and passionate individual who empowers others around them and works to make a positive difference in the world.  Public votes counted for 50 percent of the weighted total with the panelists’ scores accounting for the other 50 percent of the weighted total.

The SheBelieves movement was created to inspire and encourage girls and women of all ages to accomplish their goals and dreams, athletic or otherwise.  The campaign was originally launched in the run-up to the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup but has since evolved into a special bond between the team and its fans, taking its powerful message of empowerment and that of believing in yourself into communities across the nation.

The past winners of the SheBelieves Hero contest are: Semahj Ware (2020), McKenna Woodhead (2019), Hollis Belger (2018), and Danielle Bosland (2017).