What is brightly-colored, grass-stained and only worn a handful of times? Soccer uniforms worn by athletes in youth soccer leagues across the state. Whereas many families throw these uniforms into a back closet or even chuck them out with other unwanted outfits, two sisters had a different idea.
Cassandra and Christiana Layman of North Kingstown have been playing soccer with Ocean State Soccer for 22 seasons over the past 11 years. Each season, from fall to spring leagues, the girls would get new uniforms. With 22 seasons under their belts, the stack of multicolored jerseys and shirts started to catch their attention.
“We noticed all of our uniforms would only be used for eight games,” said 15-year-old Christiana Layman. “After you play two seasons each year, it’s a lot of uniforms that start to pile up.
Ocean State Soccer – one of the largest youth soccer associations in the state – draws approximately 1,000 kids to its fields each year between the fall and spring seasons. A sizable number of those kids play both fall and spring seasons, including the Layman sisters. Do the math and that’s a lot of uniforms worn and discarded after only eight games. The sisters, both students at St. Mary's Bay View Academy in Providence, knew the mounting pile of “like new” uniforms was a problem and began brainstorming with their parents on how to solve it.
It wasn’t until they began following coverage of the devastating 7.0-magnitude earthquake in Haiti in early 2010 that the pieces started to fall together. Without basic amenities such as food, clothing and shelter (one million Haitians were homeless following the quake and a recent report from January 2012 found that nearly half a million Haitians are still homeless), the girls had found worthy recipients for their bounty.
“We really started to see the need in Haiti,” said 16-year-old Cassandra. “Clothing like sports uniforms like this are worn every day there and those people could actually use them. Here, they’d just sit on a shelf.”
Thus SoccerRECYCLE was born. Ocean State Soccer’s Board of Directors gave the green light for the girls to coordinate a clothing drive at an upcoming soccer event to collect used uniforms and other gear to donate to those in need in Haiti.
The Laymans had two big concerns – the first being that the drive would be a massive flop. The worry was soon eradicated at the first drive, held in fall 2010, pulled in more than 1,500 items – ranging from soccer shorts to jerseys to cleats to shin guards.
“It was a phenomenal response,” said Christiana. “People kept saying ‘Why hasn’t anyone thought of this sooner?’”
Then there was the Laymans second big concern – how do you transport 1,500 items of clothing and gear to the Western Hemisphere’s most impoverished country?
The planets aligned for the girls one day thanks to an “only in Rhode Island” moment. Their father David Layman – a long-time news anchor for Providence’s Channel 6 and now a communications consultant – picked up his daughter from a friend’s house and began talking to the friend’s father. As luck would have it, the man was the chief financial officer for East Greenwich-based Arpin Van Lines. When Layman asked him if Arpin could help with the transport of the gear to North Carolina (where the U.S. Soccer Foundation would then ship the gear to Haiti), the response was, “Absolutely.”
On Saturday, the girls will hold their fourth collection from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. during Ocean State Soccer’s family cookout at their fields at 650 Stony Lane Road. All are welcome to donate. Clothing must be in “reasonably good condition.”
For more information, contact SoccerRECYCLE at email@example.com.