My names Vanessa Begley, or, as most of the UKSD gang knows me, I’m Begs. I grew up on the Cape and went to Dennis-Yarmouth Regional high school where I played soccer. My UKSD journey began nearly a decade ago, which is insane to reflect on. I was on a club soccer team, and Doc was one of our coaches. When he was in the initial stages of creating UKSD , a lot of our own team decided to switch over with him and support his newly founded idea.
In the beginning stages of UKSD, I was involved on the participation side. I was doing his clinics, training sessions, and playing for his teams. As I got older and more involved with looking into collegiate level sports, I became more interested in the community service aspect of UKSD.
The first projects I can remember doing were local ones. The ones that come to mind are the first soccerthons we did in Barnstable where we struggled to build a cardboard home large enough and stable enough for us to sleep in for a night. After this event, my eyes were opened to not only the local issues our own communities were facing, but the global issues dominant in countries around the world. I was eventually introduced to the abroad trips provided by UKSD.
With UKSD, I have travelled to Dominica multiple times, to England, Puerto Rico, and will soon be venturing off to Africa and potentially the Middle East in the future. The most notable trips were the service ones to Dominica.
Dominica, a small Caribbean island, was one of the most life changing experiences. The memory that pops into my mind every time is one that took place when we were driving back home one night. We had spent the day visiting the Kalinago people , an indigenous group on the island. On the drive home, we saw two boys playing with random objects in the street in front of their home.
We decided to pull over and give them a ball we had rolling around in the trunk. Words cannot describe how happy these kids looked to have a ball of their own to play with. They looked shocked even. Moments like these helped alter my perspective on life.
In my last high school years, I continued partaking in the trips, but I also flipped the switch and started being a part of the other side of UKSD, coaching. It was pretty funny to see things starting to come full circle. I helped at first with some little practices or after school programs, and eventually got to the point where I was running certain programs on my own.
On the coaching end of it, I was truly able to see the real impact that UKSD had on these kids. For some, it was the only sport they’d be able to participate in all year. For others, it was an opportunity to learn beyond just the game and to work with other kids. For others, it was a way to make friends. Seeing it on the other side, through coaching, made me want to continue to be a part of UKSD as I moved on to the next stages of my life.
When I decided to come down to Florida for college, I was a little nervous that I wouldn’t be able to fully participate. However, over the last couple of years, my relations with UKSD have only become stronger and more meaningful. As I get older and gain more life experiences, I’ve realized just how much of an impact UKSD can have on kids in this world. Most recently, I’ve been helping with the behind the scenes tasks. This spring semester, I accepted a position as the UKSD Marketing intern, and it has been great to be able to try to help the organization expand and maintain, so they can continue their efforts to help youth. Last week, we also added another Alumni in the community trip to the books, where some girls from local Cape Cod high schools came and got a tour of the school and played with the USFWCT.
Overall, it has truly been amazing and rewarding to see how full-circle UKSD has come for me. From being an active participant when I was a kid, to now helping with the behind the scenes of organization, the coaching, and becoming an “alumni in the community”, I can honestly say that UKSD has been one of the driving factors in molding me into the person I am today. As I look forward to the next stages of my life, finishing college and graduating, I know that I will always have UKSD as a huge component of who I am and who I hope to become.