Love is a very complex emotion. According to science, love can be explained through the release of neurotransmitters in the body called dopamine and endorphins that emulate a “feel-good” response towards someone or something. However, love is much more complicated than that. It can be applied to a plethora of different things. Someone can love another person, an object, an idea, or any other arbitrary thing. In my opinion, love is the most powerful emotion, which means it can also do the most damage. For example, I loved soccer more than anything in the entire world.
My whole life revolved around the sport, and it was not only a game I played, but also something I obsessed over. Ever since a young age, I was a better player than the kids in my age group. Often times I would find myself sneaking into my older brother’s games and playing against kids two or three years my senior. I was naive to believe that this feeling of euphoria would last forever; that my love for the game of soccer would be insatiable no matter how much I played. However, as I mentioned before, love can do just as much harm as good. I never would have imagined that at the young age of 15 I was told by numerous doctors that I couldn’t play competitive soccer again in my life. After suffering a crippling brain injury, I was completely cut off from the one thing I loved the most at such a young age.
I didn’t know how to handle such a loss, so for the next year, I slowly began to isolate myself more and more. My daily routine consisted of rehabilitating from my head injury and sitting alone in a dark room. The void I felt in my heart felt unconquerable. I felt like I had no motivation to do anything or try anything new. All that changed one day when my dad came back from his weekly business trip to Cape Cod. He told me about this organization based out of Hyannis, Cape Cod and how it was the perfect fit for me. United Kidz Soccer Development, or UKSD for short, was an organization/charity based on making the world a better place through soccer. After doing some background research on the charity, I knew it was the right thing for me to do. I had to get involved in any way I could.
After reading about the initiative that Doc and Fligg have taken to changing the world around them, I felt an old spark ignite a flame inside of me. That burning love for soccer was back, and UKSD was the tinder. I immediately reached out to Doc, inquiring about anyway I could help support such a noble cause. After speaking with him and Fligg, I decided to host my own fundraiser to raise money and support the charity. I set up a pay-to-play soccer tournament that summer, and it was a huge success. After such overwhelming support from the fundraiser, Doc offered me a spot on UKSD’s annual mission trip to Dominica. I was thrilled and immediately accepted the offer. I didn’t know what to expect from the trip, but I was relieved when I discovered that I would be traveling with other high-schoolers who had been to the island before. When we first landed on the tiny island of Dominica, I was instantly taken aback by the breathtaking sights. It was the first time I had ever been exposed to such a lush, green environment.
Color exploded around every corner and bend in the road. The mountainous terrain unraveled before me as far as the eye could see. What was even more amazing than the scenery were the people on the island. I have never in my life experienced such genuine happiness from some of the simplest things. We brought loads of used soccer gear such as cleats and balls and shin guards, and when we handed them out to the local kids, it was like watching a reflection of myself on Christmas morning. Their eyes lit up when they received what in my eyes was a simple gift. A sense of guilt washed over me and for the first time in my life,I felt spoiled. Amongst my friends at home, I never had the coolest and latest toys or clothes.
In Dominica however, it felt like a privilege just to own a new pair of sneakers. The most spectacular thing about this though, was that it made me realize that you don’t need the hottest trends to be happy. A quick glance around at all the kids made me appreciate every simple thing I had back home. The overall experience on the island made me realize that the most rewarding feeling is helping those around you. It’s not an easy fix by any stretch of the imagination, but with continuous effort and support, we can make the world a happier and better place. I carried the experiences and friendships I gained from the trip to Dominica with me as I embarked on the biggest journey of my life: college.
I am currently attending school at the University of New Hampshire with an undergraduate in Biochemistry. I want to pursue a career in orthopedic surgery. A big part of my decision to tackle such an arduous career path such as medicine was after I saw so many unsupported people in Dominica. Around every corner, you saw someone hobbling around on crutches or bedridden due to illness. After witnessing this, I made it one of my biggest goals and motivators to help people who can’t afford to help themselves.
Overall, the trip to Dominica and my experiences with UKSD as a whole was nothing short of amazing. It helped me heal and expand my love for soccer. It taught me how to empathize with others and learn to see things from a different perspective. I will forever be grateful towards Doc, Fligg, and the rest of the team at UKSD.