Tim McKenna, Warren, OH
Tim McKenna, a now retired member of the United States Air Force, was deployed in Comayagua, Honduras in 2004 and observed that the children and families of the neighborhood had very little in their poverty-stricken region.
“These families had nothing,” said McKenna, a West Virginia native who currently resides in Warren, Ohio. “The kids might have gotten one set of new clothes a year, but there was no hope in sight for many of them.”
Hoping to help the town through soccer, McKenna did some online research and discovered Passback.
“I received enough equipment from Passback to field a league of 10 teams,” he said. “I provided my own official’s equipment, trained two linesman and we started. The league is still in operation today.”
While many Passback Stars are youth who seek to help those their age in need, the program is welcome to anyone, at any age.
Vince Ventimiglia, Soccer Dreams Without Borders, Denver, CO
Vince Ventimiglia runs Soccer Dreams Without Borders (SDWB), a non-profit organization based out of Denver whose primary focus is to help underserved youth in Africa and the U.S.
Along with emphasizing the importance of education and encouraging responsible lifestyle choices, SDWB has an ongoing Passback Collection that distributes soccer gear to young players who otherwise may not be active or have a high-risk factor of dropping out of school.
“On average, the total annual collection exceeds 1,000 items of soccer gear,” said Ventimiglia. “We ship over 900 pounds to Africa yearly and provide soccer gear for about 150 young boys and girls in the Denver inner city.
Not only have Ventimiglia and McKenna helped various communities through their Passback collections, but they have also been learning through the process as well.
“I learned that we live in a country that shows amazing love of the sport and that the size of their hearts matches that love,” said McKenna. “I have also learned to never ever count anyone out – people will surprise you when you least expect it.”
But ultimately, why do these men collect this equipment? While the gift of soccer may be nice, how does the sport transcend itself and influence other facets of society?
“Using Colorado as an example, the drop out rate in some areas is almost 50%, pregnancy among high school girls is high, and 30% of the kids are obese or at risk of being obese,” said Ventimiglia. “It is well documented that there is an achievement gap in the underserved segment in Colorado and no doubt this applies in most other parts of the country.
“I am convinced linking soccer to education and making good lifestyle choices will make a difference in the lives of children and their families.”
McKenna echoed the sentiment:
“I hear stories everyday from around the world where people’s willingness to help promote the game of soccer has bled over to a more rewarding life.”
Ventimiglia and McKenna are just two examples of adults who are making a difference through Passback. Learn more about starting a collection of your own.