For November's feature of the month, we go to Catawissa, Pennsylvania to Southern Columbia (SOCO) High School, where the Varsity Girls Soccer team has been a huge supporter of the SWB program in Granada, Nicaragua. In August of 2009, Current SWB Interns Kay Adami and Zoe Bouchelle gave a short presentation to the SOCO team at the Penn State camp to explain the mission of Soccer Without Borders and tell them what they hoped to accomplish as the first-ever long-term interns for the Granada site. Jen Stine, the SOCO Varsity Girls’ Soccer Coach writes that “[after the presentation]… I saw the impact it made on our players, some of them even in tears, when they saw just how harsh conditions can be, and what we take for granted. From that moment forward our kids were inspired to make a difference in any way possible. That night every member of the team purchased a blue Soccer Without Borders T-Shirt which was a tremendous help to the program. Little did we know that their commitment to the cause wouldn’t stop there.
The SOCO team decided that in addition to the T-Shirts, they would hold SWB events back home. After school, the girls began forming committees and deciding on fundraisers, slowly making progress toward their goal. Coach Jen says that although she and her sister provided guidance, the majority of the work was done by the team. In the end, the SOCO girls raised more money than any single team has in the history of the program.
Beside their fundraising success as Ambassadors, Coach Jen says she has seen a marked difference in the girls' behavior. They are more grateful for the things she believes they took for granted in the past because they are able to see how fortunate they are when compared to teams in other parts of the world. “Raising funds for Soccer Without Borders is probably one of the most rewarding experiences a team can have,” she says, "I would encourage every team to actively participate and host their own events. The feeling of knowing that you are providing one child with the proper soccer equipment, to play in a game that they love, is like no other.”
Reaching their goals did not happen overnight. Player Samantha Fraley admits that it took a lot of preparation and hardwork. However, she says that when it was all said and done “you’re left feeling great with what you accomplished.”
Player Courtney Cecco agrees that each player felt a sense of accomplishment when she looked at the number on the giant check they had made. But she says that beyond that, the SWB experience was also a way to bring the team as a whole closer together. “We decided as a team to raise money and this gave us more responsibility. It gave us the chance to help out when it was not obligated…it was a much better feeling doing it because we wanted to.”
So, just what, you might ask, were SOCO’s secrets to success?
First, they targeted the teaching staff preparing a soup, salad, and sandwich meal at $5 a plate. 80 teachers took them up on the bargain, and everyone left the soccer team’s Teachers Luncheon feeling satisfied.
Then on September 20th, they organized a Vera Bradley Purse Bingo in the cafeteria and extended an open invitation to everyone at school. They asked for a $15 donation per ticket with the option of buying additional tickets for the 50/50 and Raffle items. With donated baskets and other prizes ready to go, the team waited nervously in the cafeteria, unsure if their hours of organizing, cooking, basket-making, and running around would be enough to turn a profit…
Needless to say, in the end the event was an unbelievable success. Over 175 people attended the bingo, leaving the girls scrambling to provide additional seating. Every last raffle ticket was sold and every last food morsel was gobbled up.
SWB would like to extent a huge thanks to the SOCO girls for their commitment to the SWB Granada Project Also, a big Thank you to Jen Stine and sister Amanda for supporting the team through the process and encouraging other teams to get involved as Ambassadors.