Ever notice how much used, outgrown youth sporting equipment can accumulate in a toy box or closet?
So did Kimoyo Ltd., a Roanoke Valley philanthropic powerhouse that undertakes community service projects in the upper east region of Ghana.
Itâ€™s a place where children often play soccer barefoot on dirt lots and sometimes without a real ball. Instead, the players ball up a bunch of plastic bags.
Long story short, Kimoyo has found a home for those spare soccer cleats and shin guards. Its members have hauled multiple loads of spare soccer gear donated by area households to Africa â€” transporting them in oversized duffel bags when Kimoyo volunteers take mission trips to Ghana.
Kimoyo is again calling on folks to check their closets, and what better place to set out collection boxes than at a major soccer tournament?
This past weekend, the nonprofit Roanoke Star Soccer Club staged its annual Kimoyo Cup. The tournament drew about 1,500 players from five states who competed on 13 fields at Green Hill Park in Roanoke County. As they arrived at the site, some players and their friends and families visited the donation boxes placed near team tents and the concession stand to drop off old cleats, shin guards, balls and other hand-me-downs.
â€œItâ€™s a good cause. Why would you not send it over?â€ asked coach Ryan Hambright. His under-10 team, which won its age bracket, made a contribution, he said.
Kimoyo board of directors President John Merten was in the tent preparing for the next African journey. He scraped dirt from cleats and deflated balls. â€œIf youâ€™re carrying them over to Ghana, a full soccer ball takes a lot of room,â€ he said. A typical donation cache exceeds 200 items, he said.
Kimoyo, which already launched a medical center and Internet cafe in a village called Zebilla, wanted to help teens at a middle school in nearby Binaba improve their language skills to pass an English proficiency test needed to enter high school. Volunteers in 2009 organized language tutoring for girls 11 to 14. The carrot was that participants get to form a soccer team with all the gear and a locally hired coach supplied by Kimoyo.
The donated goods generate excitement when handed out, especially if uniforms are part of the deal, Merten said.
After seeing literacy bolstered, the initiative is expanding to give participants coaching in math and science, too, Merten said.
Ethan Hogan, 13, of Botetourt County, who plays on the under-13 team in the elite class, dropped a pair of used size-9 cleats in the box.
â€œI canâ€™t fit in them now. Theyâ€™ve just been sitting around the house. Someone else can use them now,â€ he said while awaiting the start of his championship match.