WHEN 13-year-old St. Thomas Aquinas student Lucas Wagorn and his team were defeated in a run for third-place against a group of fellow-footballers from Brazil, he felt nothing but goodwill towards his peers.
Having played the Brazilian team twice at the international tournament held in San Marino, Italy in July, the Canadians were interested in swapping jerseys with the Brazilian boys as a memento. Unfortunately, the bronze finishers were unable to do so as the jerseys they were wearing were the only ones they had for the rest of the year. The Brazilians were members of a club based in Sao Paulo, using soccer as a tool to help homeless youth get into a better situation. Touched by their story, Wagorn's Excel Soccer team gave their Brazilian counterparts their practice jerseys anyhow.
When Wagorn returned home from his two-and-a-half week Italian soccer tour, he couldn't shake the memory of the contrasts between the opposing team and his North Shore life.
"We both like soccer and it's a really big passion of mine. I felt bad because it's so hard for them to play soccer and it's so easy for me to play soccer because they don't have any equipment," says the North Vancouver resident, who plays on a number of local teams - St. Thomas Aquinas and North Van Metro included.
Interested in filling a need for the club, Wagorn issued a call for new or gently used football gear to ship south. The response was overwhelming.
Having collected nine boxes of soccer-related clothing and equipment, the Grade 8 student faced a new challenge,
shipping fees, as the jerseys, socks, shorts, balls and cleats weighed approximately 400 pounds. Again, he reached out to community members for donations and once again was surprised by the degree of support received.
Wagorn successfully sent his first shipment earlier this month. "Sometimes we think too much about ourselves. . . . It really does give you a good feeling when you help them all out with a sport that they all love," he says.
Wagorn is grateful for the support he's received from: the local soccer community; students and staff at St. Thomas Aquinas and his former elementary, St. Pius X; corporate donors; his friend Julien Curlier, 13, a Sentinel secondary student, and Curlier's parents; as well as community members at large.
Cam Kerr, owner/operator of Windsor Hockey Skills Academy, was among those who showed support for Wagorn's efforts. Kerr encouraged his hockey players to fundraise for Wagorn and they raised $240 for the cause.
"There's always this hidden battle between soccer and hockey, for players and time. . . . So I thought this would be great. Our kids in hockey are willing to help out some people in soccer and we took that approach and the kids bought into it," says Kerr.
Based on its success, Wagorn has decided to make his project, dubbed Football for Brazil, an ongoing initiative. He plans to continue sending goods to the Sao Paulo club, thanks to a partnership with its founder and coach, Valdir de Oliveira, until the need is met. He's expanding his reach to now serve a Brazilian school he heard about through a family friend, helping build a soccer program for students by outfitting them.
"I want to continue it for a long, long time to come," he says. "It really makes you feel good when you send all the stuff down. It makes you happier, just that you've helped other people."
Wagorn's mother Elisabeth has been helping him with the initiative and is incredibly proud of the effort her son has put in.
"It's great that he found something he can be passionate about. Today we raise our kids to give back and the best way is when you find something that touches you. That's when it becomes easy, so to speak," she says. "You don't mind putting in the effort."
For more information on Football for Brazil, to make a cash or new or gently used soccer clothing or equipment donation (for girls and boys), visit footballforbrazil.ca. Donations are also accepted at St. Thomas Aquinas, where Wagorn has been granted a storage space.