It all started back in May when five classmates and friends held a virtual 5k run called Kicks For Kids through their own nonprofit Play for Keeps. Their goal? Raise enough money to buy 300 pairs of shoes for kids in Orlando.
Matthew Lucas, JT Rattigan, Maaz Mohiuddin, Jackson Bennett and Michael Crocetti, juniors at Windermere Preparatory School who oversee the Play For Keeps organization, not only met their goal – they surpassed it. With their 5k run fundraising money, they donated 400 pairs of new soles to young souls at the Molly Ray Elementary (MRE) school in Orlando. They partnered with Track Shack, which provided the shoes at cost. Lucas, whose primary role was coordinating the partnership with Track Shack, says he has always made the time to volunteer.
“I see how much something that we would consider small, like a single meal, could mean to someone. I also love sports and knew I wanted to bring that joy to these kids,” Lucas says. “I wanted to make a difference in the community around me and truly change the lives of the kids we’ve helped.”
According to the Orange County Public School’s website, MRE is a Title I school. This means the school has a large concentration of low-income students who receive supplemental funds to assist in meeting their educational goals.
Lucas says he and his team members came up with the idea for a shoe drive after they heard that students at MRE would miss school because of the conditions of their shoes.
“We wanted to supply these kids with athletic shoes, because we don’t want anyone to be left out on the playground,” Lucas says. “We saw the impact first hand when we delivered all of the shoes to the kids and they were all extremely excited.”
Lucas says the 5k run was their biggest event yet, and the community has been very supportive with volunteering. He says Play For Keeps hopes to expand into more communities throughout the Central Florida area.
Lucas says the team is inspired by helping the kids and seeing the smiles on their faces.
“It’s always amazing to see the smiles on the kids’ faces. The smiles really are contagious and it fuels our fire to keep doing more,” Lucas says. “A sports ball may seem like such a small and simple thing to a lot of people, but the difference it makes in the lives of these kids is huge. It gives them something to do outside of school, keeps them active, and healthy.”
The five teens are currently planning their next project – a ball drive benefiting Cypress Elementary school in Kissimmee. They are asking for donations of new soccer balls and equipment to help the school create a new soccer program.
For more information about Play For Keeps visit www.pfkfoundation.org.