Campus Life

Reaching out to those in need

It may seem like a small gesture but University of Lethbridge Pronghorns men's soccer players have discovered that it can make a world of difference – they need only look at the smiles.

An innocent act of recognizing need has turned into an annual program of giving for the club, resulting in Horns soccer gear making its way around the world.

"Three years ago, one of our players, Cal Campbell, was going to do volunteer work in Thailand," says men's head coach Randy Bardock. "He made some comments about the underprivileged areas he visited and how they had none of some of the most basic things we take for granted. So we got the guys together and packed up a bunch of gear that either didn't fit, or we had no use for anymore, and sent it off to Thailand."

It wasn't long before they received photos from these communities of children proudly wearing their Horns paraphernalia, broad smiles adorning their faces in appreciation.

"We've just kind of carried that on since then," says Bardock.

Nepal soccer
Children from a community in Nepal proudly display their Pronghorns men's soccer gear.

Former Pronghorn player Mike O'Brien (BSc '10) was the next to take the Horns' message abroad, traveling to Arusha, Tanzania for two months where he volunteered at a local hospital. This past summer, team trainer Dave Hall took shirts, shorts, cleats, runners and a variety of other soccer-related items to Nepal.

"I think it's important for the guys to realize how fortunate we really are here in Canada, and this is a way to drive that message home," says Bardock. "What we consider as old or out of style, these people cherish as valuables."

The philosophy of engaging with the community and contributing by giving back is something that the men's program has practiced for years.

"For as long as I've been involved we've tried to give back to the community through sponsoring schools and sponsoring a family at Christmas – this was another way to make a difference," says Bardock. "I think when the guys see the pictures come back, it really makes them more aware of just what is going on around the world. Sometimes we get so focused on our own issues, we tend to forget that there are a lot of people in much more challenging situations than we face."

Nepal kid
A brand new shirt is a treasure in any size.

As rewarding as it is for the children who receive the gifts, the program also reaps rewards back home.

"The three individuals who have done it, the feeling they had when they saw these kids getting the gear, I think it was something that made a life-changing impression on them," says Bardock.

O'Brien concurs, saying it had a real impact on his perspective on life.

"It really gave me a better appreciation for the opportunities we have here in Canada and the opportunity I have to go to University," he says. "It also re-affirmed my desire to go to medical school and become a doctor."

Bardock says that the program will continue to look for ways to push the ideal of community engagement going forward.

"If guys have opportunities to volunteer somewhere and do the same sort of thing, we'll definitely encourage them to take advantage of those," he says. "The experiences you gain from that are incredible, and something you won't get from a classroom."

This story first appeared in the December 2011 issue of the Legend. If you'd like to see the full issue in a flipbook format, follow this link.