Buried somewhere in Jacob Vaiden's closet were two pairs of soccer cleats that he no longer used. They were still in decent condition, but as the Riverside Middle student grew, so did his need for new kicks.
Rather than send the old cleats out with the trash, he decided to send them to Africa.
Vaiden and fellow GA-SC Bulls soccer club members are taking part in the 'Share the Gear ... Share the Game' equipment drive aimed at shipping new and gently-used soccer gear to three African nations: Nigeria, Ghana and Cameroon.
"There are kids that really need this stuff and we're lucky to have it," Vaiden said. "So it's good to let them get (the equipment) and to help the less fortunate."
The program is headed by coaches Forrest Wimberly, a former coach at Augusta Prep, and Ike Ofoje, longtime men's soccer coach at USC Aiken.
The two men had separately held donation drives for quite sometime. Ofoje, a native of Nigeria, has remained connected to his homeland and has been collecting donations and delivering it -- both by hand and through shipments -- to the children of his former neighborhood. Wimberly has also participated in the "Passback Program" in conjunction with soccer academies in Ghana and Cameroon.
"We've done this separately but we thought this was a great way, since we had a surplus of extra stuff, to get some use out of them and donate them to these needy groups around the world," Wimberly said. "It's about growing the game and making their soccer experience better."
So far, the Bulls staff has been pleased with the level of generosity from both players and the community. To persuade others to donate, the team is giving away raffle tickets to everyone who brings in equipment. Prizes include cash, Bulls summer camp discounts, Bulls merchandise and an autographed jersey from former Bulls player Alli Lipsher, who is now with the Boston Breakers of Women's Professional Soccer.
The club pays for the cost of shipping the gear overseas. However, Wimberly said that smiles that are sent back after the kids get the equipment more than makes up for the money spent to get it there.
"It's not cheap to ship this stuff," Wimberly said. "But when we get the pictures, when (the players) get the letters saying 'thank you,' that's where it's going to become crystal clear what kind of passion they have for soccer over there."
In addition to the donations to Africa, the club has donated new soccer balls for use at the East Georgia Regional Hospital.
Reach Joey Jones at (706) 823-3304 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
HOW TO DONATE
The GA-SC Bulls equipment drive will continue during team tryouts today from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. at Hammond's Ferry Soccer Complex in North Augusta. The Bulls will collect cleats, soccer balls, old club uniforms and other soccer-related equipment.