Baldwin freshman soccer player organizes local fundraiser
Gwen Schemm, of Baldwin, wants everyone to have the opportunity to play soccer. It's a game she excels at, and loves.
So, when she heard about the U.S. Soccer Foundation's Passback program, Schemm, 14, knew immediately she wanted to get involved.
With the help of Passback and its partner, Eurosport, the Baldwin High School freshman organized a collection drive through the Baldwin-Whitehall Soccer Association. She gathered more than 650 gently used donations of soccer equipment that were shipped to underserved communities across the globe.
The equipment collection project took nearly a year to complete, and Schemm enlisted the help of her long-time friend, Emily Jurczyk, of Whitehall.
Jurczyk, 14, also is a freshman at Baldwin High School. The two girls spent long hours cleaning, organizing and boxing the equipment for shipment.
When not working on the collection effort, Schemm and Jurczyk were busy playing soccer for the Lady Highlanders. They each made the varsity squad as freshmen.
Schemm plays outside and center mid-fielder, while Jurczyk is a goalkeeper.
Schemm earned a varsity letter and was voted by her teammates as “Playmaker of the Year.” It is an honor she did not take lightly.
“It made me really happy that my teammates voted for me,” Schemm said.
Schemm's father, Kris, admits he knew nothing about soccer until Gwen showed an aptitude for the sport at a young age.
Following her lead, Kris learned all he could about soccer, and now serves as president of the BWSA.
“(Gwen's) already surpassed me athletically,” he said.
But, he was even prouder of his daughter's efforts to help less fortunate children through her volunteer efforts with the U.S. Soccer Foundation.
“It's one of those fulfilling moments as a parent,” he said. “And, it was nice it see everyone in our community that stepped up and recognized there are opportunities to help other people.”
Gwen plans to make the local Passback collection an annual event, and hopes to expand collection efforts beyond BWSA to other local soccer organizations.
Jurczyk is anxious to help again when her friend begins contacting local coaches this spring.
“I hope we can get more people involved,” Jurczyk said.
The elder Schemm also credited Mike Sopato for his help securing a donation from FedEx for the shipment costs. Sopato's children also are BWSA players.
Gwen hopes her volunteer efforts will have an impact on children who may not have gotten a chance to play soccer without the equipment she helped collect.
“I just want everyone to have the chance to play soccer,” she said. “I want everyone to love it like I do.”
Anyone interested in donating used soccer equipment to Gwen Schemm's 2013 Passback donation efforts can contact her via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jennifer Goga is a freelance writer.