As a family business operating since 1990, Cannondale Generators always has a special place in our hearts for the local and surrounding communities. The resilience and kindness of the people here keep us rooted in Wilton, Bridgeport, and Fairfield County, as well as Westchester County, NY.
Our partnership with incredible organizations like the Bridgeport United Football Club gives us the opportunity to give back to the individuals that make up this wonderful place.
Individuals, like 19-year-old Cleeford Cenejuste.
Good Things Take Time
Cleeford learned about Bridgeport United through Founder and Coach, Dan Pelletier (more affectionately known as Coach Danny), before the team was officially put together. At the time, the highest club in Bridgeport was a premier team. When the opportunity to be involved with a semi-pro team came up, Cleeford couldn’t say no. But, it wasn’t easy.
“I remember first starting it…It took time. It was moving slow. We couldn’t get the right players. People would come and try out, not prepared.”
Good things take time, though, and in time, the Bridgeport United Football Club found its all-stars.
Then, and even now, Cleeford continues to find ways to help the growth of the Bridgeport team and its impact, constantly encouraging friends to try out or watch games and participating in community activities as often as he can.
Soccer is Not Just a Sport
For Cleeford, soccer is not just a sport; it’s a connection to his childhood in Haiti. There, he says, “If you don’t play soccer, you’re not doing anything.” It was central to his world growing up: the whole family played, kids held games in the street, it was always playing on the TV.
Cleeford recalls being chased from street soccer games by his mother after telling her he’d return home to do chores soon, only to still be playing soccer two hours later.
In Haiti, as in Bridgeport, soccer was a common thread, uniting the community.
A Game of Two Halves
In soccer, ‘a game of two halves’ is an idiom referring to when two halves of the game are completely different to each other. Bridgeport United, it seems, was transformative in Cleeford’s life.
The team challenged him to push more, to help more people, to find joy in helping others, especially kids. Cleeford says being involved with the team helped him learn to be responsible, be on time, be a team player, be someone others can look up to.
“When you want something in life, you [have] got to earn it.”
Cleeford credits Dan Pelletier for the community impact Bridgeport United has had, pointing to him as not only a positive role model, but as the embodiment of what it means to be a good man – on and off the field.
“I remember the first time I met him…I didn’t really know many people, so one day I went out to Bridgeport to play soccer.” Cleeford had gone to DIG USA, a soccer clinic for kids where he sat on the bench from 10am to 6pm – just watching.
He wanted to play, he said, but he didn’t want to approach anyone.
Dan Pelletier, however, saw Cleeford on the bench –with love for the game in his eyes– and invited him to join the game. Cleeford says Coach Dan pushed him to start his soccer life. “He makes me love it. He was there for me, and pushed me, and saw potential in me. He changed the way I played.”
“Not everybody wants you to succeed.”
Coach Danny, Cleeford says, is not just about soccer, but about what you can do outside of the field to be a better person.
“I was in a really hard situation, and Coach Dan took me in…I didn’t have a place to say, and now I’m living with a family that is good for me and takes pretty good care of me.” Pelletier and his friends came together to figure out a way to make Cleeford’s life better, so that he could just go to school and focus on soccer, as a kid should.
“I might not show it a lot to them, but to be honest, I am really grateful. I always thought I was going to have it in the future, but not right now. Having all this really helped me a lot. It’s something I can’t forget.”
Through Bridgeport United, Cleeford went from being a high schooler without a home to working two jobs, getting through school, and now, college-bound to Mitchell College, ready to play soccer.
“Not everybody wants you to succeed,” he says. Still, Cleeford emphasizes that people like Dan are not necessarily extraordinary. Rather, he says, “he’s just a guy out there helping Bridgeport kids.”
For him, role models are not the best player on the field or people to be held up on pedestals. They are just like you and me – ordinary and full of compassion.
Paying it Forward
Cleeford believes that life ought to be lived chapter to chapter. As he heads off to Mitchell college, he reflects on his past ones. “I want to remember all the people that helped me and continue to give back to others.”
He remembers his old coach, his teachers, his school – his whole life, people have been helping him succeed. Cleeford carries his deep gratitude for his community, knowing how much they helped lift him up.
“I want to be there for someone else like some else was there for me”
“As long as I’m around, I still want to be involved with Bridgeport United…I have to help the kids. I have to help the community.” He constantly asks himself how he can help them get better at soccer, be a better person, be a better version of themselves. “I definitely want to give back, because people gave a lot to me.”
As Cleeford enters a new chapter of his life, his goal is simply to go to school, play soccer, and see what the future brings. “I don’t want to live with regret,” he says. He wants to have it all, hoping to become a businessman and play professional soccer. After all, “There’s nothing wrong with trying. If I fail, it’s a part of life.”
With him, he takes his lessons from Bridgeport United and Dan Pelletier. “I want to follow their steps.” They keep going, and they strive, no matter what others say. Bridgeport United is made up of great people that work hard and do good.
“They’re going to be the top team,” he says. Not just for their high-level performance, but for their big hearts.
Stories like Cleeford’s reaffirm Cannondale Generators’ commitment to our customers, families, and surrounding communities. It gives us strength and hope, in humanity, and in all of you. It reassures us that ordinary people are capable of extraordinary change – especially when we look out for another. Change starts with you.
Support the Bridgeport United Football Club
In the future, the all-star soccer players of Bridgeport United want to join a professional league while keeping a local team in the Connecticut State League. Their dream is to have thousands of fans following the team, whether that be in-person, watching the games live online, or following what amazing community projects they are working on by following their website and social media.