Too often teens feel that they are too young to make a difference. But one Greenbrier High School student is working to change lives for impoverished children in Honduras, Indonesia and Mexico.
Hilary Matfess came up with a grand idea one day: Collect used soccer uniforms and give them to children who couldn't afford them. Her self-dubbed "2nd Shot" project is now in its fourth fundraising effort.
"I guess I was 13 or 14 when my father and I were walking together after a soccer tournament and it dawned on me, 'These things take money,' " said Hilary, a rising junior at Greenbrier High School and the daughter of Marty and Lisa Matfess of Evans.
"I thought about collecting used uniforms for underprivileged children," she said. "I tossed the idea around for several years and finally decided I was going to do it."
Hilary decided to solicit three local soccer groups -- the August Arsenal Soccer Club, Patriots Soccer Club and Augusta Fire Club -- for donations of used uniforms. A soccer player herself who has been playing for 12 years, six of them competitively, Hilary knows the impact that sports can have on youngsters.
"Without sports, kids are much more likely to be involved in gangs," she said. "Girls who play sports have a much better body image."
Before Hilary knew it, the uniforms were pouring in.
"My friends said, 'I'm not going to use these uniforms,' and gave them to me," she said. "People would turn up at my house with a Wal-Mart bag full of uniforms."
Hilary soon realized that the donated uniforms were presenting a challenge: There simply weren't enough to equip a team. With a family vacation to Riviera Maya, Mexico, approaching, Hilary decided to do a little online research to see if there was a group there that might be able to use the donated uniforms.
She came across the Akumal Library, which serves as a library, literacy and learning center in the city of Akumal.
"The library was very small, but neat and clean," Hilary said after her visit this summer. "The kids who were there were very happy to be there. It's a great program where children can go and be supervised after school. I guess calling it a library is too small of a word; it could be described as a community center."
Although the used uniforms would bring a smile to the faces of the impoverished children of Akumal, Hilary still had a burning desire to outfit a team with new uniforms. She applied for a Hilton Hotels grant and used that $350 to purchase two sets of team uniforms.
"It's wonderful to know that you can help someone find joy in sports," said Hilary, who contacted the charitable organization Sports Gift and presented them with the new uniforms. Hilary said the new uniforms will be used as incentives to get children to attend school.
"It is my personal belief that every child deserves an education and it's a fantastic feeling knowing that I have made a difference," she said.
"It's amazing what I have been able to do in my spare time."
Hilary plans to continue collecting used uniforms, new uniforms and monetary donations to purchase uniforms. Individuals or businesses interested in making a donation can do so by contacting her at (706) 868-6253.
"I intend on doing this for as long as I can," she said.
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