Girl Scout organizes sports equipment drive
By Elizabeth Marie Himchak
Children in South Africa will soon be playing soccer with real soccer balls instead of homemade balls made out of plastic grocery bags because of efforts by Del Norte High freshman Alexa Alyeshmerni.
The 14-year-old Cadette Girl Scout in Troop 8097 recently organized the “Soccer 4 South Africa” soccer equipment collection drive as her Girl Scout Silver Award project. The award is the second-highest available to members.
“I thought if they are really interested and love the sport so much that they make their own equipment then I would love (to help them),” Alexa said, adding perhaps some of the children will grow up to pursue soccer as a career.
Alexa said she was inspired to organize this project after her brother, Dr. Daniel Alyeshmerni, and his colleagues traveled to South Africa as part of the Yale/Stanford Johnson and Johnson Global Health Scholars Program. He told her about his medical rotation in Tugela Ferry, a remote South African village, where the children enjoy soccer more than any other sport and were playing the game with balls they made out of plastic grocery bags.
By being involved with soccer the children are less likely to participate in risky behavior that could have criminal or health consequences, she said.
The used soccer equipment drive was held at the Sports Authority store in Carmel Mountain Ranch, where management agreed to have a donation bin placed at the store for two weeks in August and give coupons for store discounts to those who donated. To promote the collection drive, Alexa said she contacted local soccer leagues throughout the area.
“We got a lot of stuff in the box that was filled three or four times,” she said. “We got 20 balls, a lot of cleats, jerseys and shorts.”
She also solicited relatives, friends and others for monetary donations to cover shipping costs. It cost more than $100 to ship the items to Yale University so the next group of medical staff traveling to South Africa can take the soccer gear to the children in Msinga, a poverty-stricken region of South Africa.
“It felt really good to help people,” Alexa said, adding the most difficult aspect of her project was getting approval from Sports Authority officials. “I learned one person can do a lot to change (a situation). I never thought I could make a difference by myself.”
She added, “I’m really happy it worked out and was so surprised when (the bin) was filled. I’m so thankful.”
If able to raise the money to cover shipping costs, Alexa said she would like to make the soccer equipment drive an annual event.
Alexa, a Santaluz resident who joined Girl Scouts as a Daisy when she was in kindergarten, said she used to play soccer. In addition to Girl Scouts, her activities include Del Norte’s Key Club and being on a synchronized swimming team in the area for the past three years.
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