Stevens Uniforms Fill Need for Children in Uganda

Stevens High’s unused soccer uniforms now belong to a group of young students at a school in Uganda. (Courtesy photograph)

Stevens High’s unused soccer uniforms now belong to a group of young students at a school in Uganda. (Courtesy photograph)

Claremont — Sometimes, the answer is right there in front of you. Even if that means thousands of miles away.

There is an area off Carr Gymnasium that Stevens High School’s coaches use to store equipment. These areas are called cages. And for good reason: They not only don’t look good, they don’t smell good, either.

Last fall, new Stevens athletic director Aaron House directed a delousing of the cages. Stevens boys soccer coach Jason Stone was also in his first year, and when House told him about organizing his cage, he didn’t think cleaning it up would such a big task — until he took a look.

“There were a lot of thing in my cage, most of which I thought should go to the Dumpster,” said Stone. “However, Aaron came into his new job with a lot of energy and fire and asked me if I could find someone or some organization that could use some of those old soccer uniforms.”

As House pointed out, “There were just bags and bags of full uniforms that would be a shame to just toss away.”

Stone then put 36 uniforms together, washed them and searched the Internet to find them a new home.

It didn’t take long. Stone found a website — Soccer Field of Dreams Uganda — and off went the proposal.

“My hats off to Jason,” said House. “Some of these kids are orphans, others are troubled. Sending those uniforms over there was really a win-win situation.”

The website’s mission statement reads: “The love and passion for soccer is an easy getaway into the life of a Ugandan child. Soccer has been called the world’s game, and this certainly rings true in Uganda. So many of the children that Fields of Dreams Uganda Inc. works with have the dream of being a professional footballer.

“These kids will play soccer whether they have a legitimate ball or not. It is common for children to build their own soccer balls out of fibers or even plastic garbage bags.”

After the uniforms arrived in Uganda, Stone got a letter from Mike Warneke, the executive director of Fields of Dreams Uganda who had just returned to the United States after taking the uniforms to the African nation.

“I just wanted you to know that we had an incredible time with the children, and we were able to distribute some of your donations to the wonderful kids of Blessed Hope Champions Academy, and the kids are extremely grateful for your generosity,” Warneke wrote.

Stone says he will continue to try and find uses for other equipment to help the less fortunate. For instance, Warneke also mentioned that most Uganda soccer players have never had a pair of cleats.

“What we did makes me feel really good, and hopefully it will get other people to get involved in such projects,” Stone said.