If there is one thing that the boys at our center love, it is soccer. Show up at any given moment and there is bound to be a soccer game taking place or just finishing up. Countless windows have been broken, and knees scraped. Pastor Daniel even built a special shelter for the aunties to watch and observe soccer games where they are protected from stray soccer balls.
Today, we are excited to share how Ela Soccer Club, a soccer club located in the northwest suburbs of Chicago blessed The Raining Season with soccer gear. The Ela Soccer Club has approximately 1,300 athletes participating in both recreation leagues and competitive leagues. Close to 600 of those 1,300 players are part of competitive travel teams. In club soccer, it is common for teams to change uniforms every two or three years. This means that high quality, lightly used uniforms were ending up in the back of closets at the end of the two or three-year cycle. In 2017, with the support of the Ela soccer club, an idea was born. It has blossomed into something that has blessed The Raining Season, and we believe that the Lord perfectly orchestrated this project.
Brian Gilboy, whose son is a member of a travel soccer team, has been instrumental in planning and organizing this project. His son has been part of the Ela Soccer Club for six years. Brian, along with other parents of players, were talking about what they could do with the old uniforms. Unsure of what to expect or what type of inventory they would get, they decided to set up a collection drive. Much to their surprise, they received about any type of soccer gear you could imagine: uniforms, shoes, shin guards, socks, soccer balls, etc. The next step was to figure out what they could do with it all.
About the same time, Brian saw a LinkedIn update from a former colleague who had started his own company. This former colleague, Andrew Limouris, owns Medix. Medix is a company that has been partnering with The Raining Season for several years. Seeing that The Raining Season was part of Medix’s philanthropy project, Brian reached out to see if there might be any interest in the soccer gear they had collected. On the same day that Brian reached out to Andrew, an email was sent from our staff in Sierra Leone with an idea to raise funds for soccer gear. It’s truly amazing the hand the Lord had in helping this project launch. Within several weeks, the soccer gear was headed to Sierra Leone with a team and TRS was preparing for their first soccer game.
This project was later named, Kick it Forward. Brian shared, “I feel very lucky to have TRS as our first partner. The group and Ela showed the community what can be done in a short amount of time. It also showed how we can help others we haven’t met.” Since partnering with The Raining Season a year and a half ago, Kick It Forward has been able to outfit eleven soccer teams! This includes teams in Costa Rica, Argentina, and Liberia. Several weeks ago, more soccer gear was sent over to our kids at The Raining Season. Currently, the Ela Soccer Club is working to help equip a team in Uganda with soccer gear.
While the Ela Soccer Club and parents support this project, it is the players that have taken initiative. The players, ages 13-16, collect all of the donations. They sort and fold the uniforms and clean the shoes. They help to prepare the gear to send on to the next team that will wear those uniforms. They shared that it is very rewarding to see pictures of the kids, whether they are in Africa or Argentina, in these uniforms with smiles on their faces. Although worlds apart, soccer has connected these players from the suburbs of Chicago with other soccer players from around the world.
What does the future of this project look like? Brian shared, “I would love to be able to help teach other teams in the area how to duplicate this. This program wouldn’t be where it is today without the support of the Ela executive team. They have been so great getting things started - everything from collecting gear during the season, to marketing, and providing collection sites during our big events. We would not be able to do all this without the Club being behind this endeavor 100%. If we were to duplicate this effort at other locations, it's important to note the role the Club plays in making this a successful program.”
Thank you to the Ela Soccer Club, the players, and the parents for your hard work organizing Kick It Forward. Thank you for spreading joy and blessing our children with soccer gear. We are honored to have been your first partner in this project.
The Raining Season