Beaufort News

Riverview Charter students roll out special soccer balls for needy children around the world

In war-torn and poverty-stricken countries, deflated soccer balls are a common sight.

Children who want to play the game but can't afford to replace the balls sometimes try to create make-shift versions out of trash and twine.

A television news image of such children in Darfur led to the creation of an ultra-durable soccer ball that won't deflate and the founding of an international project to get the balls into the hands of children across the globe.

Students and staff at Riverview Charter School in Beaufort are trying to raise money and get local support for the effort and adopted One World Futbol as a school-wide, service-learning project.

This week, students played soccer games, collected donations and paid for a chance to soak their teachers in a dunking booth. They created brochures and short videos to market the project to the community and have raised about $1,200 so far, art teacher Weezy Alcott said.

"This ball means hope for the children around the world that have to play with a flat soccer ball on grounds that have nails and tacks, playing barefoot around a barbed wire fence," sixth-grader Autumn Rogers wrote in her brochure. "How would you feel? I wouldn't feel so well, so that's why Riverview is helping the One World Futbol organization."

The ball is made of material similar to that used in Crocs sandals and can be used on all surfaces. It doesn't require stitching and it won't go flat, even when punctured.

"I've tried jumping on it, sitting on it, none of it works," fifth-grader Tommy Holloway said. "I've even seen one run over by a car."

"You could give it to a lion," fifth-grader John Rogers added.

He's right: One World Futbol tested its product by giving it to a lion in a zoo.

Riverview has purchased several of the balls through the company's "Give One, Get One" offer. For each ball that is purchased for $39.50, another is donated to children in impoverished countries.

Riverview plans to distribute some of the balls it buys to local groups that serve children. It is also seeking residents who plan to travel abroad and are willing to distribute them. That saves on shipping costs and allows the students to learn more about the children they are directly benefiting, Alcott said.

So far, a local doctor has volunteered to distribute some of the balls during a mission trip to Guatemala. A father who serves in the military plans to take some to Afghanistan.

Alison Thomas, the school's director, explored a town in Costa Rica while on a recent vacation and peeked through the window of a small cinder-block schoolhouse. Among the desks, a deflated soccer ball lay on the floor.

Thomas took a photo for her students and got the school's address so she could mail it a ball.

"It was a poignant moment," she said.