Local Youth Soccer Players Help Procure Hundreds of Jerseys and Pieces of Soccer Equipment for TSF's Kick It Back Program

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El Novak rises above the specialness inherent in all children.  At 11-years old, she grasps a slice of ‘the big picture’ rarely seen by most young people their age. She understands the value of giving.

One of nearly 5 million kids who play soccer in the United States, El is a member of the Minnesota Thunder Academy with an unmatched appetite for the beautiful game.  When she’s not playing, she’s watching with a special interest in the U.S. Women’s National Team (USWNT) and the Minnesota Gophers Women’s Soccer Team.  In late October, she and her father, Paul Novak, joined 25,000 fans to watch the USWNT dismantle the Swiss National team 5-1 at nearby U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis.  She was excited to meet and pose with her favorite player, Carli Lloyd. Lloyd scored a pair of goals in the game but is best known for her unprecedented hat-trick in the 2015 World Cup Gold Medal game.

Each summer, University of Minnesota Head Soccer Coach Stefanie Golan runs camps for youth soccer players in Minnesota. Coach Golan has gotten to know Miss Novak very well and is as much a fan of El as El is of the Gophers. “El Novak is an incredible young woman. She has attended as many of our camps as possible and is constantly working on her own to improve as a soccer player.  She is the Gopher Soccer Family's biggest fan and someone that we look at like a little sister. The thing that we have been most impressed with, however, is her awareness of the world around her and the bigger picture that is life. To see someone so young working so hard to give back and improve life for others around the world is beyond inspiring,” stated Golan.

As big as her passion for soccer is, her lust for life and helping people less fortunate than her is even greater. “We moved to Minnesota two years ago from St. Louis where we did charity work for a group that ran soccer programs and equipment drives for kids in East St. Louis. When we got here we were looking to get involved in a similar charity and Dad found TSF through a business friend of his,” El explained. When she heard about TSF’s Kick It Back program, she enthusiastically made a personal commitment to start her own drives to collect as much new and used equipment as she could. “I really liked helping other kids in St. Louis when we were there.  You don't need a lot of gear to play soccer, just a ball and cleats. I think soccer is the best game in the world.  When I learned that TSF supports 400 kids in Haiti and they needed gear, I knew I could do that for them!”

This fall, El and her friends Ruby and Frankie organized numerous soccer equipment drives on behalf of TSF’s Kick It Back program. They led the charge at the Academy of Holy Angels Dome, Champions Hall Sport & Event Center in Eden Prairie, and even at Elizabeth Lyle Robbie Stadium at a Gopher Women’s soccer game. These girls' efforts have procured thousands of new and gently used soccer equipment now earmarked for the kids in Haiti.

While planning for the fall events, they connected with the Minnesota Thunder Academy Soccer Program and Coerver Coaching to gain support for the undertaking. Both organizations were extremely helpful. El also lauded Coach Johnson from Lakeville North, who made a very generous donation! They broadened her exposure by emailing people within their networks. The response was overwhelming. “My parents and Ruby and Frankie’s parents helped collect at the different sites, driving around, buying boxes, and boxing up all the stuff.  We had so much in the garage that dad had to park in the driveway!”

El is adept at using social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, which were essential in her ability to advertise equipment drop-offs.  She posted and tweeted around the clock to collect as much gear as she could.

Not many young people think about helping others with the commitment that El Novak does. When asked about her motivation to collect all the equipment for the Kick It Back program, she replied “My dad promised me that if my friends and I could raise a lot of gear that he would go with me to Haiti with TSF. I thought that would be really fun to do.”

On behalf of The Sanneh Foundation and the kids in Haiti, thanks for all your hard work El, Ruby and Frankie! We look forward to seeing you in Haiti in 2017.