Trickum Middle students collect soccer balls for soldiers

Photo by Corinne Nicholson

Photo by Corinne Nicholson

Students from Trickum Middle School celebrated America Recycles Day by collecting gently used soccer balls and gear for U.S. soldiers to hand out to impoverished Afghani children.

The collection involved the entire school community, with families from the Gwinnett Soccer Association donating multiple items, including soccer balls, jerseys, socks, shin pads, shorts and cleats. Girl Scout Troop No. 139 wrote encouraging notes to the soldiers.

Students from sixth, seventh and eighth grades brought in soccer items from home, while students from the Junior Beta Club, Environmental Club and Art Club created promotional posters, decorated collection boxes and separated, counted and packed the balls and gear.

Members of the school's PTSA delivered the items to Troop Bebop USA, a nonprofit organization that specializes in sending needed supplies and items of all types to U.S. troops overseas.

The annual soccer ball and gear collection began three years ago when a parent was contacted by an American civilian in Iraq who wanted to see if he could get people to donate soccer balls for U.S. soldiers to hand out to the children there. He said it would give the children something positive to focus on -- the universal game of soccer.

"If young boys are playing soccer, it is less likely they will carry a weapon," he wrote, adding that he wanted to "thank everyone from their support of the U.S. war effort, but more importantly, our peace initiative. To get hugs from children who have nothing is the best feeling in the world. Thank you for helping us to make it possible."

This year's collection yielded 42 soccer balls, 132 jerseys, 48 shorts, 88 pairs of cleats, 56 pairs of socks, 21 pairs of shin pads and a soccer bag. Additionally, students collected nearly 500 athletic shoes that will be recycled through the Nike Reuse-a-Shoe program and 60 Crocs shoes to be recycled through the Soles United program.

Heather Darenberg writes about education. Good News From Schools appears in the Sunday edition of the Gwinnett Daily Post.