(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.