Augusta Prep soccer has gone international.
Thousands of miles across the Atlantic Ocean, a club soccer team from one of the larger cities in Ghana will visit the small village of Nsawam this summer for a soccer match.
When the big city team looks across at the rag-tag village squad, they'll see the words "Augusta Prep" across their opponents' chests.
The Cavaliers won't be traveling to Ghana anytime soon, but they'll be well-represented this summer.
The Augusta Prep soccer program has donated four sets of their old uniforms to the team in Nsawam, Ghana - a poverty-stricken village in the West African nation.
"I've never met them face to face. No one from Augusta Prep has," Cavaliers soccer coach Forrest Wimberly said.
Wimberly is a member of the National Soccer Coaches Association of America. So is Emmanuel Ofori, the head coach and project director of the Ghana Community Soccer Club.
"He sent out an appeal asking for any kind of assistance last summer," Wimberly said. "The goals they're playing on are three pieces of wood - literally. They really didn't have any equipment."
Wimberly made an initial donation last summer of a few soccer balls and one set of old jerseys - the boys varsity jerseys last used in 1989. It took the package almost six months to reach its destination, but the impact the gesture made was immediate.
"The set of jerseys and balls have made the community honored and proud, as you can see from the picture," Ofori wrote in a letter to Wimberly on April 13. "They had won their first game with a club from the city with the love and spirit from the jerseys. The city club was shocked to see a village club looking so good in their jersey and then losing to them.
"The community has lost words as you can see the joy in the faces of the people. They now have so much respect when it comes to soccer within the communities and district."
Wimberly said the gift was just the tip of the iceberg. He shared the letter with pupils at Augusta Prep and created a program called Goals for Ghana.
Last week, another shipment was sent to the Ghana village team. This time, the gift included three full sets of jerseys, a dozen soccer balls, more than 40 pairs of athletic shoes, dozens of shirts and workout gear and a large pile of shin guards.
"Anything you would need equipment-wise was sent," Wimberly said. "These are luxuries for us. None of this stuff will be missed in Augusta, Ga., but it will be cherished in Ghana."
Along with the equipment was a donation of $350 - the proceeds from a middle school dance. Wimberly said the money will be used to build restroom facilities at the school in Nsawam.
"Through the varsity soccer team and the middle school and their P.E. department, I've been overwhelmed by the response," Wimberly said.
Eighth-graders Caroline Ireland and Alexander Hagist are two Augusta Prep pupils who answered the call for help. Ireland donated a large amount of clothes and socks. Hagist came to school with a duffel bag overflowing with soccer equipment.
"We have all this spare equipment and hopefully this will help them," Ireland said. "I love soccer and for them to have the equipment they need, it gives us a lot of pride."
The Goals for Ghana campaign will be an ongoing program through the 2007-08 school year. Wimberly said he'll charge a reduced admission to soccer games with the donation of soccer equipment.
Donations will be accepted throughout the year for another shipment to be sent next summer.
To donate, call the school office at (706) 863-1906.
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