The Sierra Leone Soccer Project got started in December through a connection with Adventure Soccer and Timbercrest P.E. and health teacher, Brigitte Wheeler.
Wheeler is an advocate and volunteer with the nonprofit organization, which works to spread its message of hope to others through the game of soccer.
Founded in 2003 by Matt and Kymm Raney, the association holds skill-based soccer camps throughout the region to help build character, while emphasizing the importance of team play and sportsmanship.
The curriculum is rooted in Bible teachings.
Proceeds from the local camps are used to fund the couple’s ministry in Swaziland, Africa, which serves children who have been negatively impacted by the HIV/AIDS pandemic.
The ministry operates a feeding station in Emkhuzweni, Swaziland, holds free outreach events for children in poor rural areas and supports The Sandra Lee Centre orphanage in Mbabane, Swaziland, in addition to other activities.
Matt approached Wheeler with an opportunity to support the youth and adult amputee soccer leagues in Sierra Leone as a friend to FC Seattle and Greatest Goal Ministries, both Seattle area nonprofits.
Wheeler brought the idea to Audee Gregor, another teacher at TJH.
Gregor, who has been at the school for five years and teaches 7th grade Washington State History, 9th grade Pre-AP World History and a Leadership class, was very excited about becoming involved with the project. She saw it as an ideal activity for her Leadership class students to spearhead.
In explaining the focus of the Leadership course, she says, “It’s a semester-long class where students learn, develop and hone leadership skills, characteristics and qualities. We use the ‘7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens,’ by Sean Covey, as the backbone of the curriculum to help students develop those habits of successful teens and leaders.”
Gregor notes that students are involved in leadership roles within the school by holding fundraisers, working with ASB, putting on the Martin Luther King, Jr. and Veterans Day assemblies, encouraging school spirits and maintaining poster boards, among other activities.”
The original goal of the Sierra Leone Soccer Project was to outfit 15 to 20 teams in Sierra Leone with uniforms, shorts and socks.
For Timbercrest students, the objective was to show how it’s possible to support others in need with something as simple as secondhand or leftover uniforms and a soccer ball.
“We want our students to think bigger than themselves and that even though they are young, they can make a difference in our world,” comments Gregor.
The school began accepting donations of new or used soccer gear through its P.E. Department in early December.
Then the project expanded to accept monetary donations and to include fundraisers through the sale of Sierra Leone T-shirts.
Three students rallied support from outside sources: Olivia Banks reached out to UW and Lakeside FC, Maiya Boswell contacted Arch Bishop Murphy and Ciara DeGraff worked with Mt. Rainier FC. The response was overwhelming.
Thus far, 41 sets of jersey tops (a set can outfit a team of 20), 8 sets of shorts, 208 pairs of socks, 66 soccer balls, 183 pairs of cleats, 45 pairs of shin guards, miscellaneous keeper jerseys, keeper gloves, ball pumps, backpacks, ball bags, posters, sweatshirts and more have been collected.
About $1,200 has been raised through monetary donations and the sale of the T-shirts.
These funds will be used to purchase the additional items to round out the necessary supplies to completely outfit a team.
“We see this as an ongoing project,” says Gregor. “The Leadership class would like to pick it up again next year with new students and make it a tradition at Timbercrest.”
She notes that efforts are continuing throughout the remainder of the year through Adventure Soccer, and the school will continue to accept jersey donations through the P.E. Department.
The students will be able to see the direct responses to their efforts via pictures and videos that Matt Raney will supply once he has completed his trip to deliver the items.
Gregor views the project as a wonderful teaching tool.
She says, “Students learn empowerment to do something for someone that they never met. It allows them the joy of giving hope and life to a poverty stricken community through a sport that most love.”