(Written by Jaime Elliott, Tradewinds Newspaper)
Back for the fifth time this year, Using Sport for Social Change’s signature Just Play Day event drew a record number of students who spent Monday, October 14, tossing footballs, kicking soccer balls and bouncing tennis balls in Winston Wells ball field.
USFSC founder Dean Doeling has been hosting the Just Play Day event on Columbus Day each year since the sight of a few students kicking a lone deflated soccer ball inspired him to improve local accessibility to sports and sports equipment.
As resident of Oregon and a graphic designer for Nike who visits Love City regularly, Doeling was in the perfect position to do just that; help St. John youth enjoy quality sports equipment.
He returned to Oregon and launched USFSC, a non-profit organization dedicated to health and fitness for St. John students and supplying those students with the equipment necessary for success.
While never missing an opportunity to secure donations from Nike, Doeling works closely with a group of volunteers on St. John and has been gaining support from local businesses as well.
Since founding USFSC, in addition to hosting the annual Just Play Day, Doeling has donated hundreds of soccer balls, footballs and basketballs to St. John schools and V.I. Department of Sports, Parks and Recreation.
For the past three years, Doeling has also partnered with the Global Backpack Project and distributed backpacks filled with school supplies to St. John students in Coral Bay and Cruz Bay.
But each year on Columbus Day, Doeling gets to host the event closest to his heart, Just Play Day. This year’s attendance of a reported 225 students between the ages of five and 17, set a record for the number of participations in the day dedicated fun and positive competition.
Brenda Reckor-Wallace was back this year as the emcee for Just Play Day, which also featured singing by Shikima Jones and DJ music by Adonis Morten. This year’s guest of honor was Charlie Palminteri, a Gifft Hill School student whose vision and plan transformed the Winston Wells ball field from a rocky dirt expanse to a grassy field.
“Charlie Palminteri and his mother Laura Palminteri will be the guests of honor because of their incredible vision and follow through in cleaning up Winston Wells Ball Field and planting new grass in time for this event,” Doeling said.
Palminteri’s plan was hatched as a science fair project, which eventually drew the attention of school and government officials. With volunteer help and professional assistance, Palminteri’s sustainable project saw the field cleared, seeded and maintained as grass was allowed to grow over the summer months.
Palminteri was honored during last week’s Just Play Day, which also drew about 75 volunteers who helped oversee sports stations throughout the field. Inside the Julius E. Sprauve School kitchen, Mathayom Private Chefs/St. John Catering officials were busy making sure all children as well as volunteers enjoyed a hot pasta lunch.
The afternoon wrapped up with another hilarious tug-of-war, something the students have started looking forward to each year at Just Play Day.
And no one went home empty handed; in addition to medals for the top finishers in each sport, all Just Play Day participants took home a goodie bag, T-shirt and water bottle.
Each Just Play Day event costs about $60,000 to host, with about $54,000 coming from donations of product from sponsors, according to information on the USFSC website, www.usingsportforsocialchange.com.
Which leaves the group needing donations of more than $6,000 to cover expenses each year for Just Play Day. The group always accepts donations and this year Doeling also hosted a fundraiser at the Beach Bar on Saturday night, October 12. The event featured live music by St. John reggae superstars Inner Visions and live raffles and raised about $1,800 for USFSC.
For more information on USFSC and how to donate to the group, check out www.usingsportforsocialchange.com.
4 YEAR ANNIVERSARY!!
USFSC is proud to announce it's 4 year anniversary this month!
Using Sports for Social Change (USFSC), in its third year in the USVI, was formed because the voices of our youth need to be heard. USFSC is an idea by Dean Doeling, a Senior Production Artist for the Nike Corporation.
Dean, during his early visits to St. John noticed the conditions of recreational facilities and the lack of programs for youth and decided to do something about it. Dean envisioned a group of concerned St. John residents working toward a common goal-to use sports to affect social change.
Over the past four years, Dean has sent over 1000 basketballs, footballs and Soccer balls to St. John-all donated. The equipment was distributed to the various schools and to Parks and Recreation. He also donated over 20 new Nike softball mitts to the Ruby Rutnik Softball tournament in 2009. Also, USFSC in conjunction with UMOJA, held a basketball clinic for youth at the Cruz Bay court. Dean sought and found an additional clinic leader through the USFSC website. This two-day event proved to be very popular and more events are planned.
On October 12, 2009 USFSC hostedthe first-ever “Just Play" field day. This all-day event allowed youth from age 2 to 18 to participate in sporting events. Young children ages 2 to 5 had a fully staffed area with games designed just for kids. Our older youths competed, by ages, in competitive field events for prizes. Many local volunteers were on hand as well.
In 2010, USFSC donated 58 pair of new Nike football cleats to the St. John Parks and Recs flag football team and 20 pair of new Nike baseball cleats to the Ruby Rutnik Softball tournament. Also over 30 soccer balls were donated to Gifft Hill School for their soccer program, and numerous balls were donated to Sprauve School for their various athletic activities.
Also in 2010 USFSC sent down new Nike baseball bats to the St. John Parks and Recs Department, along with 12 new Nike footballs and 12 new Nike basketballs being sent to the St. John Community Foundation for distribution to the local schools and the Parks and Recs.
The 2nd and 3rd annual “Just Play Field Day” in October 2010 and 2011 was yet another huge success!
USFSC was a sponsor for the 1st and 2nd Annual Tortola Surf Classic in 2011and 2012 and held an essay contest for youth of the USVI to write about how surfing could improve the lives of Virgin Islanders. Winners were selected to win an all expense paid trip to Tortola with a chaperone of their choosing. The event was a huge success and we are looking forward to being a part of it again in 2013.
Planning for the 4th Annual "Just Play!" day is under way and USFSC is in need of volunteers, providers of snacks and beverages, tents, chairs, tables and other equipment to make this free “Just Play” event possible again this year. Of course, donations of money are always welcome and will be used to offset the cost of the “Just Play” event, as well as to continue to uplift and support the current sports programs on island by providing equipment and assistance.
Using Sport For Social Change, donated approximately 100 pair of new Nike Cross Country shoes to Ivanna Eudora Kean High School Cross Country Team, in St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands. It is the hope that this donation of approximately 100 new pair of Nike Cross Country shoes will uplift the Ivanna Eudora Kean High School Cross Country Team and give them a major competitive edge over their opponents this season and beyond. Right now the Cross Country Team consists of 20 teammates, both male and female, and are from both St. Thomas and St. John. Each teammate will be given a new pair of shoes for the season, leaving the other shoes for future athletes of the same team. The 2012 Just Play event served over 100 kids and pictures are posted on the Facebook page...http://www.facebook.com/pages/using-sport-for-social-change
USFSC's primary purpose is to support local sporting programs that are already in place, with fundraising, community education and sporting equipment donated through Nike. Furthermore, USFSC is trying to resurrect some failed sporting programs and provide play days where kids from all classes and cultures can come together for and participate in sports-based games and skill challenges. The motto of "Using Sport For Social Change" is to "Focus Virgin Island youth through sports and fitness, giving them the confidence they need to set personal goals, achieve their aspirations and create opportunity for themselves, their family and their community."
More information can be found at www.usingsportforsocialchange.com, or by contacting the St. John Community Foundation.
About Eudora Kean High School Ivanna Eudora Kean High School, a co-educational public high school. Located on the eastern end of St. Thomas, serves 9th-12th grade students from both St. Thomas and St. John. In collaboration with parents and community members, Ivanna Eudora Kean High School will provide a quality education in a safe and secure environment for all students emphasizing varied curricula choices, sound teaching methodologies and appropriate facilities in order to prepare our students to be marketable globally, to enter school of higher education, and to become life-long learners.
"Using Sport For Social Change" and "Global Backpack Project" donated backpacks filled with school supplies to all Guy Benjamin students. It is the hopes of these two initiatives that this will make it easier for children of Guy Benjamin School to focus on their education without worry of not having the most basic of school supplies, and to give each student a means by which to keep all their homework together and carry their homework and books to and from school.
About Global Backpack Project Global Backpack Project is a community-based nonprofit organization that collects and delivers backpacks and school supplies to children in need in the Pacific NW and around the globe. Our Vision We envision a world which supports education for all girls and boys so they may reach their unlimited potential in school and life. Our Mission Global Backpack Project exists to encourage a desire for learning by helping children feel prepared for school. With the help of our local community and partner organizations, we seek to make a difference in the lives of children just as they seek to make a difference for themselves and their community.
Just Play 2012 is in the works!
This year's event, on Columbus Day, Monday OCTOBER 8th, is another exciting FREE Day of sports for youth 5-7years. Sign up NOW to volunteer, participate or sponsor this amazing event! Sponsorship information can be found here! http://www.usingsportforsocialchange.com/2012_just_play_sponsorship_levels
This year you are also invited on a special Sunset Sail the night before (October 7th 5-6:30pm) on the beautiful boat KEKOA - and unforgettable and intimate evening of food, fun and sailing all in support of Using Sport for Social Change! Stay up to date with all the latest news and event information on facebook page!
Dean Doeling posted in Using Sport For Social Change,USVI
4 years ago, I had an idea to just send some soccer balls down to St. John so the kids would have something to play with. Now, 4 years later, the Using Sport For Social Change initiative is going stronger than ever! At this time, 1,000 sports balls have since been distributed to all 5 schools and the St. John Parks & Recs. We have held 3 very successful "Just Play!" events, where kids from all over the USVI come to play a day of sports with a free lunch, trophies, medals, free Nike product, free t-shirts and water bottles, entertainment and guest speakers.We have also taken youth essay contest winners to Tortola for the Tortola Surf Classic 2 years in a row, as well as giving out free sports balls to all youth finishers in The 8 Tuff Miles road race this past February, and an Ipod, Ipadand Ipod Touch to 3 youth raffle winners who finished the race.We are now in the planning stages of our 4th annual FREE "Just Play!" event and it's shaping up to be the best one ever! Please help support USFSC in any way that you can. It takes a lot of volunteer hours, local support,monetary and product donations to keep USFSC going each year. I am so proud of what USFSC has accomplished in 4 years. It's a far cry from my original intent of just getting soccer balls down to the schools. I find it amazing to see how far this initiative has grown in only 4 years. I am looking forward to many more years of helping the youth and community of St. John and the greater USVI through sports and fitness.Sincerely, Dean DoelingFounder- Using Sport For Social Change www.usingsportforsocialchange.com
As reported in the St. John Tradewinds: The Julius E. Sprauve School was not in session, but the Cruz Bay public school was warmed by children tossing footballs, kicking soccer balls and hitting tennis balls during the third annual Just Play Day on Monday, October 10.
Hosted by Using Sport For Social Change, Just Play is a free annual event which allows kids between the ages of two and 17 to compete in a safe and friendly environment. The day of games and entertainment is the premier event for USFSC and each year Just Play is a little more organized thanks to the organization’s founder Dean Doeling.
A senior production artist for Nike, Doeling was on vacation on St. John when he was inspired to find ways to improve the island’s athletic opportunities. Back home in Oregon, Doeling’s idea blossomed into USFSC and he organized the first Just Play Day back in 2009 with a small group of St. John parents. Each year, the event has grown in both participants and activities and Doeling has earned the support of an array of sponsors.
“We had a little over 120 kids take part which is on par with previous years,” said Doeling. “We had a good amount of volunteers again this year as well, about 60 to 70. In my opinion this year was very, very well organized.”
“It just keeps getting better and better,” he said. “The community support is just wonderful.I don’t know off-hand but we had more than 20 sponsors which is considerably more than previous years.” Doeling is guided by a common sense principle when organizing Just Play Day each year, he explained. “I’ve always been about taking what works and using it and fixing what doesn’t work,” said the USFSC founder. “I think this year we pretty much nailed it.”
While the event still saw children taking part in a number of activity stations, from a 50-yard dash to a basketball throw, judging only took place in the morning, allowing the students to take part in a sport of their choice during the afternoon.
Medals were awarded for different age groups for both boys and girls for each activity. Those scores were recorded during the morning session and tallied while the students reloaded on carbohydrates thanks to a catered pasta lunch by St. John Catering and Mathayom Private Chefs.
“For the second year in a row, Mathayom has done an amazing job not only with the food, but with doing it correctly and getting the kids through the line and fed,” said Doeling. “The food is always amazing and there is always enough for all of the kids and all of our volunteers. If it wasn’t for him, this event would sorely be lacking in sustenance.”
During the afternoon session, students were able to return to their favorite activity while listening to the Calypso sounds of King Fidel and the talented pan players in the Love City Pan Dragons.
“Doing it differently in terms of judging in the morning and having free time in the afternoon worked out really well,” said Doeling. Also new to Just Play Day this year was tennis. The activity was added to the day’s events thanks to Caneel Bay Resort’s Director of Tennis Donald Becker, who brought rackets and balls and led skills exercises along with Patrice Harley and Kazumi Schaub.
Judging from the popularity of the activity, tennis will be a permanent part of Just Play Day and the next Rafael Nadal just come be discovered on the Winston Wells ball field.
“It’s important for kids to be physically active and tennis a great sport,” said Becker. “It seems like the kids are really having fun so I’ll be back for sure.”
Doeling too has made a commitment to bring Just Play Day back again in 2012 for the fourth annual free community event.
“The amount of support that each of the businesses here on St. John and a lot of individuals too, have given us is just wonderful,” said Doeling. “It’s nice to know that I have the confidence of these people who believe that I will be back and I will put on a good show. I will be back indefinitely.”
Even after Just Play Day wrapped up, USFSC kept on giving. On Wednesday, October 12, Doeling visited all three island schools to donate the balls used at Just Play Day.
“What happens is I send down balls all through the year for groups who need them or they are put in storage for Just Play Day,” said Doeling. “After we use them, they all get dispersed to schools and Parks and Recreation.”
Looking ahead, USFSC will also be hosting its essay contest for the Tortola Surf Classic, paying for essay winners to travel to Tortola and take part in the surf competition in February, explained Doeling.
“The Tortola Surf Classic is February 17 and we’re going to do the essay contest again but it’s going to be better organized this year,” he said. “We’re going to start the competition earlier this year but we will not extend the deadline.”
Doeling is also hoping to partner with Friends of V.I. National Park to host a Just Swim event with the focus of improving water safety awareness.
“The idea originally was to do a weekend event covering water safety with toys and games and just getting kids in the water,” said Doeling. “It’s looking like this might be a kick off event for getting swimming lessons within the schools. We’re still working out logistics but there is a lot of interest.”
So from surfing and swimming to throwing footballs and kicking soccer balls, Doeling and USFSC will continue to support St. John athletics. “I saw a need for something like this down here and I really had an epiphany,” said Doeling. “I knew I had the ability to make some positive changes and I continue to see positive changes on the island through sports in general and through this initiative.”
On a more personal note, and in addition to the above Tradewinds article, I would like to extend a sincere "Thank You!" to our special guest speaker Roland Williams. Roland was amazing with the kids and took the time to play football and other activities with them. Roland also gave an amazing speech and also helped handing out the trophies and medals!
Thank you so much Roland!
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