It’s hard — perhaps impossible — to play soccer without a soccer ball, or hockey without a hockey stick.
So when Morgan Anson learned that kids of the Ditidaht First Nation couldn’t form a team simply because they didn’t have they necessary equipment, she and a friend took it upon themselves to change that.
Even though they live in Coquitlam. Even though they’re in Grade 8.
Anson, 13, and her friend, Kayla Daly, started the Play It Forward Sports Foundation as a class project that’s expanded into something the teens hope to continue long after they’ve gotten their letter grade.
“I haven’t done anything like this before,” said Anson, a student at Summit Middle School. “Everyone else (in our class) was doing something like raising money for an organization of some sort and that’s what I thought I would be doing.”
But when Anson and Daly heard about the lack of sports equipment at Ditidaht — from Anson’s uncle, Jason, who works with the Nitinat Lake-based First Nation community — they knew they’d found a project they could be passionate about.
“He was explaining that the 50 school-age children in the community he was in had limited or no sports equipment to play with, let alone any sports teams or after-school programs,” Anson wrote on Facebook.
Daly and Anson, who is of Aboriginal descent, obtained permission from their school to take their project out of their home community so that they could help young athletes in Ditidaht.
“I play soccer and field hockey and all different sports, and when I need a new pair of cleats I can just walk down to a store near my house — some kids didn’t even know what cleats were,” Anson told the News Leader Pictorial.
“They have five basketballs, and six volleyballs.”
That changed this weekend, when a group of students from the mainland arrived with thousands of dollars’ worth of sports equipment.
“We’ve collected about 200 soccer balls, enough jerseys for about three teams, boxes and boxes of shoes and clothes and school equipment,” Anson said. “So many schools and people have been helping out.”
Support has been significant, especially after Anson and Daly started using Facebook to get the word out.
And that success has Anson and Daly planning to continue the sports foundation and assist other communities struggling with a lack of sporting equipment.
Jason Anson said the students were welcomed warmly when they arrived last Friday afternoon.
“It’s been surprising how many people have come together, how this has taken it’s own course,” he said. “When (Morgan) came up with the idea, we didn’t know where it was going to end up.”
He added the kids of Ditidaht were excited about last week’s visit from the mainland teens.
“They don’t have a lot of equipment to start with,” he said of the remote community.
“And there’s not a lot of funding out there to give them the equipment — they’re out of sight, out of mind.”
Visit the Play It Forward Sports Foundation Facebook page for more information.
Some comments from the Ditidaht Community School students, and staff and community members that were sent in an email to the Gazette:
“This weekend was the most fun I had since summer. The people I’ve met were unbelievable, amazing. To create conversation with one of them was so easy. I was able to talk about almost anything. My words can’t explain how thankful I am to them for their generous donation and effort they have put towards this event. It was awesome how everything turned out. Socializing with them all was the experience I endured the most. I love talking and meeting new people, so it only makes sense. Leaving not one of them out, they sure put a smile on all of our faces. I will definitely think of them everyday in P.E. now. Never stop caring and never stop sharing, no doubt it will be remembered.”
“I am so thankful for the two girls who got a group of kids together and made this event happen, they have no idea how much they’ve helped our kids, who live in a remote area and can’t exactly be noticed by the world. Some of the words from the kids in the community are: The weekend was good I wish they could’ve stayed longer! It was nothing like we’ve ever experienced before. Also the little guys singing felt they had to sing their little hearts out to this group, showing the appreciation they have.
Now hopefully in the next few years we will be seeing more and more Natives in the BC Olympics.
I just want the two girls who came together and made it happen to know that they made a difference in our community and know that we will be seeing change happen.
A big whoop! whoop! goes out to the We2Me crew and keep paying it forward, you done great.”
“Well, I really enjoyed this weekend, I loved seeing new faces. And the equipment they brought us is just awesome. This weekend was like nothing I ever experienced before. I look forward to seeing the Me2We kids in the future.”
Chayton Qwakmis Sam
“I guess I liked this weekend; So far, so good. I led our dances at the hall instead of hanging out with my regular friends, I got to hang out with new people my own age.”
“As you can tell, it really meant a lot to the children. Darci, Mary and Chayton were definite forerunners of Ditidaht students this weekend. They full embraced the experience and went above and beyond to make our guests feel at home.”