Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Young Athletes Take on Goal of Helping Many Others

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Young Athletes Take on Goal of Helping Many Others

Article excerpt

Katie Paschek has a dozen trophies and ribbons in her room marking victories in softball, tennis and soccer, but her most important memento from sports is in a crumpled envelope she keeps in her desk drawer.

It is a letter from a girl in Haiti thanking her for giving her a soccer ball and a used pair of cleats.

"Playing makes me smile," the letter reads.

Katie, 13, had organized a collection of sports equipment in Teaneck as a community service project last fall, amassing boxes of cleats, balls, bats and used uniforms that she sent to an orphanage in Haiti.

"We have so much stuff that we outgrow or don't need," she said. "Those kids have nothing."

She plans to hold another equipment drive next fall -- she's even expanding her efforts thanks to teammates from Hackensack and East Rutherford who plan to hold collections in their own communities.

"I got so much out of helping these kids," she said. "I can't wait to do more."

Across North Jersey, many young athletes are learning the same lesson. Teams are helping those in need with food drives and fundraisers. A softball team in Alpine outfitted a team in Paterson with new cleats and bats this spring, while wrestlers from Wayne spent a weekend painting a fence and cleaning up the yard of an elderly resident who can no longer do the work himself.

"I tell my kids that they get a lot of attention and a lot of money is spent on their teams, their equipment and travel to games," said Lara Alvarado, who coaches a club lacrosse team of young teen girls from across Bergen County. "Even the towns spend money maintaining the fields they play on. They need to find a way to repay all that by helping people in our community who don't have as much."

She added: "It's good for the community and it teaches them they aren't the center of the universe."

Her team picks a different cause each year. In 2011, they cleaned up several parks in the city of Passaic for the younger kids. The year before, they adopted a handful of residents at an area nursing home who had no other visitors. This year, they are organizing food drives during the holidays.

"This has taught me a lot about helping people," said one of her athletes, 14-year-old Colleen Harmon of Allendale. …

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