It was time for a snazzy new set of uniforms to hit the soccer field at York Comprehensive High School, and boys’ soccer coach Rick Johnson was ready to let the old ones waste away somewhere in the locker room.
An email from from Give Hope Global - a nonprofit organization based out of Fort Mill with the purpose of aiding young people in the southwest region of Haiti - changed things. In 2014, the organization established the Give Hope Cup, where Haitian boys ages 13-18 from local orphanages were given the chance to play tournament-style soccer with the help of several American high schools.
Johnson knew the uniforms would be better off in other hands, and a Give Hope representative was in York to pick up 24 shirts and shorts two weeks later.
Normally, the Haitian boys would play barefoot on a ragged mixture of rocks and grass. During the cup, they are treated to a manicured turf that even features a set of stands.
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“To play on a regulation size grass field with real uniforms, soccer socks, shin guards, and cleats makes these young men feel as if they were playing in the World Cup,” said Give Hope co-founder and Fort Mill resident Angela Quinn. “The pride with which they walked on that field and placed their hands over their hearts for the Haitian National Anthem before the start of the tournament was enough to bring any observer to tears.”
They take the tournament very seriously. One orphanage’s transportation did not show up, so they loaded up on nine motorcycles and drove four hours through the night arriving just in time to compete.
“Those guys were playing on no sleep and made it all the way to the championship game,” said Quinn.
This year’s victor was Cambry Orphanage, from southwest Haiti. The team ran onto the field with a set of black uniforms that read “York Cougars” across the front.
Donating didn’t just help a local team win the Give Hope Cup, but also gave the Cougars a sense of appreciation.
“It shows that other teams deserve the chance to play,” said York senior Carson Wynn. “They need the chance to show their skills and what they can do.”
It was a humbling experience for Johnson, who refuses to take his team’s nice facilities and ability to order new uniforms for granted.
“These boys cherish those used uniforms so much,” said Johnson. “It shows our boys that giving back to the game that they love is very rewarding.”