More than 100 St. John youngsters will get a chance to try their hands and feet at football, soccer, dodge ball and more Monday at the first annual ‘Just Play’ sports event.
Organizer Dean Doeling, a senior production artist at Nike in Beaverton, Oregon, and a frequent St. John vacationer, spearheaded the event after seeing first-hand, he said, "There is an overwhelming need and desire to help these kids with their sports and fitness needs.”
Of course, the main obstacle is financial. Both private and public schools on the island have few dollars for sports equipment.
“On one of my trips, I noticed kids were playing with a (one) flat soccer ball,” Doeling said. “I also noticed the basketball hoops did not have nets on them … Since I work at Nike … (I thought) I could use Nike as a resource to help the kids achieve some athletic goals.”
‘Just Play’ will be a combination of entertainment, athletics, and free stuff. All participants will get Nike clothing. Many will also get new Nike shoes. It will be held at the Sprauve School ball yard.
The day-long event will be moderated by St. John’s Brenda Wallace, and feature guests including Julian Jackson, world champion boxer, the Love City Pan Dragons, the Love City Leapers and the St. John School of the Arts.
Among local businesses sponsoring the event are designer jewelry store Verace, Aarawak Expeditions, Morgan’s Mango and Starfish Market. The full list of sponsors is available at http://www.usingsportforsocialchange.com/supporting_businesses
Doeling organized a group, Using Sport for Social Change, to help him continue the work he sees is needed. “The motto is to focus Virgin Island youth through sports and fitness, giving them the confidence they need,” he said.
"My intention is to develop and assist with sports and fitness programs within local schools and the community. This plan will involve local schools, businesses, charitable organizations, Nike vendors and of course, Nike."