BY JOHN DECOSTE
Kings County Advertiser/Register
Since 2004, the British-based Alive & Kicking initiative has been raising money all over the world to donate good-quality soccer balls for African children.
The Alive & Kicking program has recently come to our area with the formation of the Alive & Kicking Supporters Club in Wolfville.
The first of its kind anywhere in Canada, the Wolfville club was initiated by former Atlantic Theatre Festival director Michael Bawtree, with the help of some of Nova Scotia’s most talented young soccer players. Serving as president of the board is Wolfville native and Horton grad Dylan Sheehan, 23, who learned his soccer skills here in Kings County and went on to play varsity soccer at Brown University in Rhode Island. His vice-president is Zach Shaffelburg, 18, a Port Williams native who has attended a soccer academy in the U.S. and has represented both Nova Scotia at the Canada Games and Canada in international competition.
Children in Africa, the group says in a June 2 release, “are so crazy about soccer, that you’ll see them kicking anything around – one of the favorites is a bunch of plastic bags tied up with string.”
Since 2004, Alive & Kicking has provided more than 300,000 soccer balls – African-made, with factories in Kenya and Zambia doing the stitching and, in turn, providing employment for more than 100 workers.
The balls also carry health awareness messages, providing an opportunity for teachers and coaches to discuss with their players or students the dangers of malaria, TB, HIV/AIDS and other diseases common in Africa.
“Nova Scotia is getting almost as crazy about soccer as Africa is,” Sheehan, now playing senior men’s soccer for Halifax City this summer, says. “We have over 5,000 registered players in the Valley, and more than 50,000 in the province.”
Participation in Alive & Kicking, he added, “is a chance for us to share our resources with young people who love the game as much as we do.”
A mere $20 will buy a ball for Africa; for $45, you can purchase a ball for yourself or your soccer club, with the proceeds going to the program.
The Wolfville Alive & Kicking Supporters Club officially kicked off June 1, to coincide with the start of the 2010 FIFA World Cup being played beginning this month in South Africa.
“(Alive & Kicking) is a chance for us to share our resources with young people who love the game as much as we do.” - Dylan Sheehan
The plan is to expand further afield as the idea, hopefully, catches on. Volunteers wearing bright yellow Alive & Kicking T-shirts will be present at all the major soccer events in the Valley this summer.
In addition, an informal Alive & Kicking tournament is being planned for the local area July 21. Talks are in progress with local schools, inviting them to join the campaign.
“I’m thrilled to be a part of this,” says Shaffelburg, who graduates from Horton High this month. “We young people don’t realize how lucky we are here in Nova Scotia. This gives us a chance to give something back.”
The remainder of the board includes Bawtree, video producer Dave Sheehan (Dylan’s dad), Dr. Mike Shaffelburg (Zach’s dad), and Laurie McGowan of Annapolis Royal and the Annapolis RFC.