The University of Georgia has partnered with Nike and the Soles4Souls program in order to bring donated sneakers to children in Costa Rica. Nineteen members of the UGA Athletic Association’s Student-Athlete Leadership Academy (L.E.A.D.) will participate in this service trip from May 6 through May 12.
UGA representatives scheduled for the trip include: Jeb Blazevich, Football; Mary Beth Box, Gymnastics; Maddie Burdick, Soccer; Summer Burnett, Soccer; Emily Cameron, Swimming & Diving; Michael Chigbu, Football; Haley Clark, Basketball; Taja Cole, Basketball; John Courson, Football; Sarah Gardner, Track & Field; Jackson Harris, Football; Jimmy Hicks, Track & Field and Cross Country; Lauren Johnson, Gymnastics; Kimberlee John-Williams, Swimming & Diving; Kendall Kazor, Volleyball; Elle McCord, Volleyball; Basil Orr, Swimming & Diving; Rachel Schick, Gymnastics; Rachel Zilinskas, Swimming and Diving.
Heather LaBarbera, UGAA Director of Student Services, has been a major part in the organization of the trip. The Soles4Souls program creates sustainable jobs and provides relief through the distribution of shoes and clothing around the world.
“This is such an amazing opportunity for these student-athletes who have worked hard in their academics, in their sport, and in the community to be able to give back in a special way,” said LaBarbera. “This trip to Costa Rica is the first time we have done a service learning trip for our students, and it speaks to how much our administration cares about the meaningful experiences that our student-athletes get to be a part of.”
These student-athletes partnered with Soles4Souls at the Savannah State baseball game earlier this spring for a shoe collection. The shoes that will be given in Costa Rica are new Nike shoes that were shipped to Costa Rica on a container this past January.
“As student-athletes at the University of Georgia, we are given an incredible platform to impact others,” said senior Sarah Gardner. “With that being said, we are all very excited to team up with Soles4Souls and Nike and travel to Costa Rica to serve their community.”
This trip combines service and learning for the student-athletes in a new environment. In addition to the shoe distributions, the student-athletes will take part in a myriad of activities while there. During their six-day stay student-athletes will help with the handing out the sneakers as well as interact with the children receiving them. Additionally, they will visit the UGA Costa Rica campus and local government offices, cook with a local family, attend a dance workshop, and tour a coffee farm.