As the year draws to an end and we turn to our holiday get togethers and our New Year's resolutions, some of us may hear of our friends who make a yearly donation to a charity.
When my grandmother was diagnosed with Alzheimers when I was in high school, I wanted to do as much as I could to help her. I didn't really care for anyone else with the disease. Yeah, that's selfish, but I was 16 and I was angry.
I carried that anger for years up until her death in 2006. Then I realized that I could help but it would mean donating money to the cause. To be honest, I couldn't find an Alzheimer's charity that appealed to me.
It didn't help that I got caught up with football the summer that she died either. It took my focus off everything. I would leave the nursing home and go back to my apartment and just do kicks off this wall that sits in a field on the property grounds.
The thing that took my mind off the pain of losing my grandmother became a passion that has burned in me until now.
I finally realized over the summer that football needs support too. Sure, I support a club but there are kids who, just like Pele, still play with a ball made of socks.
While this article may seem a bit disconnected, it has a point.
We, the fans, can help make the game beautiful for others who may not have the resources to do so. So, as I make my initial donations this coming Christmas, not only to Alzheimer's research but football charities as well, I'd like to give a brief snippet of a few organizations that are working to make sure the kids play beautiful.
The Short List
Kicks for Nick — Nick Madaras was a PFC in the United States Army. He played football in high school and after joining the Army and being deployed to Iraq, he commented on how well the Iraqi children played with the simplest means. He wondered what they could do if they had actual balls.
He gathered all the balls he could find to take back with him with the intent to distribute them to the children.
Nick would never see this come to light. He was killed by an IED on 3 September 2006.
After his death, an organization was started to carry on Nick's dream of getting the balls to these children. They take monetary donations and deflated soccer balls.
Soccer Without Borders — Prejudice seems to be a more common theme in the game these days.
While fans are receiving bans from matches for hateful behavior directed toward players, no one thinks of the consequences on younger players.
If you see a player being abused for the color of his skin, you may never want to kick a ball out of fear of the same behavior.
Soccer Without Borders is a collaborative effort among coaches, players, and fans to erode the hate and prejudice that exists in the game. They believe that there can be a harmonious balance in the game again.
They operate in three countries at present and hold two annual camps yearly.
The Favela Project — The Favela Project is directed toward helping the children of the Favelas in Brazil.
They also offer American players the opportunity to travel to Brazil to experience Brazilian football while they help perform community outreach to the residents.
The offer you the ability to make a general donation or you may purchase merchandise with the Favela Project logo on it.
The End Game
We have all seen what can come from the simplicity of the game.
Pele was an amazing start that turned the game on its head. Imagine if these groups would have been around then. Imagine the talent that we can turn out if these groups are able to perform their function.
I hope everyone takes something away from this article. If not a kinder outlook on the conditions facing the next Ronaldo or Drogba, perhaps you will see fit to open your check book for the sake of those that can't afford to buy the new socks you bought because your old ones were coming thread bare.