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Children Score Confidence in Soccer Initiative


From a small school in Uganda to an after-school program in inner-city Chicago, a program initiative by the US Soccer Foundation has sent new and used soccer equipment to underprivileged children all over the globe.

The organization hopes to help children around the world build self-confidence and live a healthy lifestyle.

In a playground at Lynbrook Elementary School in a suburb of Washington, D.C., kids ages 6 to 17 gather every Monday evening to play soccer, they are part of a local police department's community outreach program in Fairfax county.

Today, they are excited about getting free soccer equipment.

Carlos Cruz, 12, got a pair of cleats.

Carlos explains, "I haven't bought cleats because I had no money. I played soccer for two months here."

Cintia Samaha, 11, says she feels great with her new shin guards.

Cintia gratefully says, "I am lucky, really lucky. Some people didn’t get anything today. But I am really lucky that I did."

Cintia has benefitted from a program started by the US Soccer Foundation called Passback.

The initiative collects new and used soccer equipment and redistributes it to those in need - anything from cleats, shin guards, uniforms to soccer balls or socks.

The foundation says the program has collected and distributed more than a half million pieces of equipment.

Sarah Pickens is the Passback program coordinator.

Pickens explains, "These [pieces of equipment] go to underserved communities anywhere in the United States and abroad. We have distributed to recently Vietnam, Haiti, South Africa, anywhere there is a request made. We are about 60 per cent domestic and 40 per cent abroad in distribution."

Pickens says the program so far has donated equipment to more than 110 countries.

Since Passback began about 10 years ago, hundreds of volunteers and partners have participated.

"We work with anyone from a young girl scout to a professional team like the Washington Freedom or DC United. Most of them are, we call, our stars," says Pickens.

Angela Garcia, 17, a soccer lover who played the game since age four, is one of them.

She offered help at a Passback collection held recently outside RFK stadium in Washington, DC, during a Washington Freedom soccer game.

Garcia says, "It is a great feeling knowing that you can give back. It is something that is so simple and so easy to do knowing that just one small donation or organizing something can help so many kids out."

Spreading the word on donating is an important part of a volunteer's work and so is the distribution to those children in need.

Al Cruz is a community liaison officer at the Fairfax County Police Department. He is in charge of the sports program to help get kids off the streets.

Cruz says, "You are seeing the kids right after they put on, don some of these equipment they received today. They are happy to play on the field; they are playing with each other, make new friends as well. They are just inspired."

Officer Cruz says the program will inspire kids to continue to participate in the game and build confidence for their future.

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