A staple of the UKSD programming has been our community awareness events. Through work with our local schools, recreation departments, and police departments, we have become increasingly aware of ever growing social issues which impact the lives of many of our youth.
Our communities, much like many others, are faced with challenges as a result of homelessness, hunger, and substance abuse. In order to raise awareness of these issues and shed some light on ways to help, we have created and implemented some of our most successful events.
Homelessness Awareness - Sleepout Soccerthon Each year, high school youth leaders volunteer to participate in our annual Sleepout Soccerthon. To participate in the event, players are asked to raise sponsorship funds which go directly towards the KidzPlay4FreeProject. They then spend the night, roughly 10 hours, playing a continuous soccer game consisting of rotating teams.
Although the event takes place in a safe and controlled environment, our teens get to feel the effects of not having a permanent or comfortable sleeping situation, having interrupted rest, and being expected to function productively. Throughout the event, they are provided with statistics of homelessness globally and locally, while being reminded that there are kids in their very own classes who feel the effects of homelessness on a daily basis. Participants are also given tools and information on how to help those who face this life altering reality.
Hunger - Food Donation Tournaments For many, lack of nutrition and hunger impact every facet of their lives. It is also true that many are unaware of how staggering this number of people is on our very own doorstep. In order to both raise awareness and make an immediate impact, we have created UKSD Food Donation Tournaments.
Participants in these small sided tournaments are required to bring nonperishable food donations, along with a modest team registration fee, in order to participate. Before playing in the tournament, participants are provided with current information and statistics regarding hunger within our towns. They are also given information regarding places they can go to either volunteer or donate.
Lastly, we reveal where the current donations will be given and immediately following the event, all food items are delivered to the decided location.
Substance Abuse - Kick It The age old saying “It takes a village” most certainly applies to helping combat the dangers of substance abuse. With an ever growing national crisis, it is now time, more than ever, to begin teaching our youth about the life altering impact of substance abuse.
Partnering with local law enforcement, substance abuse counseling centers, and public speakers, we have created the “ Kick It” event which is centered around educating our youth, providing answers to their questions, and giving them resources to seek help if needed.
This event is designed to target student athletes and allow them to hear from coaches, police officers, counselors, and parents of children who have suffered from Substance Abuse. Participants in this event play in a simulated soccer game which consists of stipulations and scenarios regarding consequences directly related to this topic.
They are also given brief but highly informative presentations, while also being allowed to ask questions. It is an unfortunate reality that this is an issue that is not going anywhere, and it is vital that we keep the lines of communication and education open for our youth. It is important to note that although these have been our biggest events, we are not limited to these topics.
The youth leaders we work with often identify the social issues they feel need to be addressed and then help create individualized projects. We have also seen success touching on issues such as bullying and cyber-bullying. We are open to any ideas brought forth to us and enjoy the challenge of creating new and unique events for each individual community's needs.
Members of the UKSD team will partner with schools and youth organizations to speak to children and teens about the importance of breaking social barriers, finding common ground to connect with other cultures and communities, and to promote ways to become community minded and driven young people. Each UKSD team member has faced adversity within their life which has driven them to focus their time and energy on helping others who may face similar challenges.
It is because of this that we have been able to make connections with people from so many areas of the world. One universal truth is that we all face struggles, but it is what we do in the face of those struggles that defines us.
We will explain our individual stories and how each path has lead us to the same common cause- using a game we love to promote physical, social, and emotional wellness for at risk youth. We will show, first hand, what can happen when you follow a dream, align your work with like minded people, and use the skills you have to give back to others