McCLURE - Local couple Gerald and Harriet Botdorf have found a way to share their passion for soccer with those who deserve to enjoy a few kicks.
"Share the Wealth," an organization started by the Botdorfs and sponsored by the Pennsylvania Soccer Coaches Association, aims to provide soccer equipment to impoverished areas around the world.
The inspiration for Share the Wealth came after the Botdorfs took a trip to South Africa and toured the townships that outline the major cities of Cape Town and Johannesburg.
Houses constructed mostly of corrugated steel lie on the outskirts of a South African township.
During the apartheid, which spanned from 1945 to 1950 in South Africa, white, European settlers segregated and discriminated against the native African population, driving them out of the cities and into the slums. Since then, these areas have remained poverty-stricken.
"The whites drove the black and the poor out of the city, but the main roads go right through the townships," Gerald explained.
While on their trip, the state of living in South Africa left an impact on Gerald and Harriet.
"Homes are made out nothing but corrugated steel," Harriet said, "They're very, very humbling."
It was during these tours and trips to and from the cities that the Botdorfs also noticed the barren clearings where children were kicking around makeshift soccer balls.
"Their soccer fields didn't look like our soccer fields. They're just dirt fields that kids play in," Gerald said. "What you saw what might have been a regular soccer ball, but I wouldn't have been surprised if it had been just a rag tied up in a ball shape."
Along the town streets, Harriet said children's toys were not much more advanced.
"Three kids were outside playing in the dirt, pushing soda bottle caps around the ground," she said. "I thought to myself, 'Wow, kids don't have much to play with and they don't have much equipment.'"
Upon their return home, the Botdorfs could not forget what they had seen of the South African townships, and they decided to lend a hand.
The Botdorfs were aware of the multitude of organizations that benefit South Africa, but Gerry, who was the long-time soccer coach for West Snyder High School, said he and his wife wanted to do something that incorporated his favorite pastime.
"Poor children like to play, too," Harriet said.
From there, Gerald pitched his idea to the Pennsylvania Soccer Coaches Association, which then jumped on board.
So far, the Botdorfs have received and shipped a donation of new soccer balls from Brine, a national sporting equipment company that works with PSCA, and they're hoping to make their next shipment soon.
The Botdorfs said they aren't asking for only new items, however, and given the price of shipping- it cost $86 to send the Brine soccer balls - they said they are trying to keep things simple for now.
"At the end of the season, teams have equipment that is half worn-out and you want to get rid of it," Gerald said. "We'll very much use things that are used."
He said said lightly used shin guards, shoes and uniforms would be valuable items for the recipients in South Africa.
Gerry added that the sport and their donations are not just for the children, nor necessarily just for Africa. Many of the townships have adult leagues that need equipment, and soccer has a huge following across the globe.
Noting that many local groups go on mission trips to other countries in need, he said if the opportunity arises, they would be interested in coordinating with other groups to extend Share the Wealth's mission.
"It isn't all geared to Africa," he said. "As things materialize, if we have the goods, we could deliver them in many ways."
More information and ways to donate can be found on the Share the Wealth page of the PSCA's website at www.pasoccercoaches.org or by calling the Botdorfs at (570) 658-3672. The couple said they would be happy to arrange a meeting point with anyone interested making a donation.
What: New or gently-used soccer equipment
Call: Gerald and Harriet Botdorf at (570) 658-3671