Local Scout organizes barefoot soccer tournament, shoe collection

 
Submitted by Joseph Lanzillo
Updated 10/27/2011 11:51 AM

Joseph Lanzillo, a member of Glen Ellyn's Boy Scout Troop 41, recently collected and shipped more than 300 pairs of gently used children's athletic shoes to benefit Coaches Across Continents, a nonprofit organization that uses soccer to build relationships in Africa and around the world.

Lanzillo, 17, a senior at Glenbard West High School, conducted the shoe drive as part of his service project to earn the rank of Eagle Scout.

 

The varsity soccer player also organized Barefoot Soccer for Barefoot Kids, a barefoot soccer tournament for local youth held at Ackerman Sports and Fitness Center this past spring. The tournament for 8- and 9-year-old players was designed to raise awareness of needs in Africa and to help defray shipping costs for the shoes he collected.

Lanzillo also led a tournament for high school students this summer.

More than 85 players, coaches, referees and other volunteers turned out to support the project.

"It was fun to play barefoot, but our turf is probably a lot softer than the fields they have in Africa," said Tyler Yeager, 8, of Glen Ellyn.

With a captive audience of young soccer enthusiasts, Lanzillo took the opportunity to emphasize how passion for "the world's greatest game" unites players of all ages and from all backgrounds.

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"Coaches Across Continents' mission to use soccer to change lives inspired me to do this project," Lanzillo said. "The kids they work with have nothing, but they still take incredible joy in the game, and something as simple as a hand-me-down pair of gym shoes can help this organization make a difference."

His donation and hard work both were appreciated.

"We'd like to thank Joseph for this wonderful contribution," said Jamie Reilly, of Coaches Across Continents' Business Advisory Board. "Joseph has worked tirelessly for 10 months to make this happen, and we look forward to getting these shoes onto the feet of children in our community programs in Africa."

The project brought together players and coaches from Glenbard West, the Glen Ellyn Park District and the Glen Ellyn Lakers Football Club, as well as from other local clubs. It also drew enthusiastic players from a youth-organized group calling itself the Glen Ellyn Premier League, which came about when West athletes from a variety of sports became energized by the 2010 World Cup and decided to form their own teams named for the world's leading soccer nations.

"(Glen Ellyn Premiere League's) excitement rubbed off in the barefoot tournament. People were just really into it, and that made it awesome," said John Walor, also a senior at West and one of the league's key organizers.

For information about the project or to donate, email Lanzillo at jos.lanzillo@gmail.com or visit coachesacrosscontinents.com.

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