Soccer cleats worn by Naperville students will soon be laced up by youngsters more than 8,000 miles away.
Throughout the past few weeks 7th graders at have been collecting soccer cleats and equipment to send halfway around the world to a village in Kenya.
“We have about 156 pairs of cleats so far and it’s from people in the community who are donating or kids bringing their equipment in,” said 7th grade Jefferson social science teacher Trish Sniadecki. “Just about everyone from the school is contributing.”
The idea started after Jefferson Junior High teacher John Bilardello visited Kenya last summer with his family. During his trip he met a Kenyan youth soccer coach and the two kept in touch after Bilardello returned home.
“Then in the fall his family collected about two boxes filled with soccer equipment and sent it over to Kenya,” Sniadecki said.
Bilardello, along with his two sons who are students at Jefferson, gathered the soccer cleats and equipment from neighbors and other students. The Kenyan children who received the equipment sent a photo of themselves sporting their new gear as a way of saying "thanks."
It was after that initial shipment when Bilardello decided to do a similar project, but on a larger scale. “Cleats for Kenyan Kids” was born.
“That photo really inspired the students to get involved,” Sniadecki said. “And soccer is really big in Naperville so we knew it was something that the kids would pick up on.”
Even students who don’t play soccer have been helping out. All of Sniadecki's 7th graders, also known as "Team Fire", have been doing their part either by writing announcements, collecting and sorting equipment or packing boxes.
“All of the kids on our team – we have about 103 students on our team – and they’re all contributing in some way,” she said.
Jefferson High’s main focus right now is collecting monetary donations in order to offset the cost of shipping the equipment. Sniadecki estimates it will cost roughly $1500 to ship all of the boxes.
But students and teachers are coming up with creative ways to raise money including selling “Cleats for Kenyan Kids” bracelets for $7.
“We’ve had some students do some really neat things to help try and raise money,” she said. “We had two girls who had a garage sale and they donated the money and another girl drew a few paintings and she sold those and gave her allowance, which was $70.”
Teachers hope to continue collecting donations through the end of the school year, which is May 29.
The project also coincides with current social science curriculum as students are studying Africa and reading "Of Beatles and Angels," which tells the story of a young Sudanese refugee.
“I think being able to tie the curriculum and give students a real world experience is what teaching is all about and showing them how to be good people,” Sniadecki said. “It’s like the best part of my job.”
For information on how to donate, contact Trish Sniadecki or John Bilardello at 630-429-6363