The project I organized and carried out to benefit the community was Kickin’ It Through the Night. It was an all night soccer tournament to benefit special Olympics. I conducted this project for a marketing and business class, called Advanced Marketing and DECA. DECA is an association of marketing students that I am involved in. The first day of Advanced Marketing & DECA class, our advisor presented us with all of the goals for Lakeville North DECA for the year. One of those goals was to create a community service project to benefit the DECA chapter as a whole, the community, and a selected charity. We came to the conclusion that a soccer tournament to benefit Special Olympics would be best. We found inspiration within our school and an interest for soccer was popular amongst our peers. First, I had to decide where proceeds would be donated from this project. Growing up and befriending an individual with intellectual disabilities has given us a different perspective on how we view our lives. Since kindergarten, an empowering individual has blessed my heart. A Special Olympics athlete competitor and a teammate on the adaptive soccer team, Jessica Turner has provided me with the inspiration necessary to take on the challenge of completing this project. Throughout the years, Jess has come to be an incredible and talented athlete with a passion for everything in her life. Despite the challenges she endures on a daily basis, she always has a positive outlook, a smile on her face and a hug for anyone who needs one. Jess, along with the rest of her teammates present a positive image throughout Lakeville North High School. Their involvement in various activities such as managing the varsity football team, and selling cookies between class periods exemplifies the joy they find in everyday life. No matter what, people can always count on them for a smile. With that in mind, there was no question as to where the proceeds from “Kickin’ It Through the Night” would benefit. The Special Olympics has had such a positive effect on so many students at our school, it was the least we could do for the organization. Furthermore, I believe the Special Olympics organization shapes an important group in our society. Participating in the program as an athlete, not only strengthens their physical fitness, but more importantly, gives them a sense of belonging and an overall confidence to succeed in the events and life in general. The chairman of the Special Olympics organization has expressed his desire to continue to support individuals with intellectual disabilities: “Yet still, too many people with intellectual disabilities have lives of unspeakable difficulty. Just a few weeks ago, a report by Mental Disability Rights International exposed the horrifying conditions that people with intellectual disabilities endure in Serbian institutions. Sadly, we know that terrible conditions also persist in many other countries. So it is with desire and obligation that we at Special Olympics continue to combat such injustices.” The Special Olympics prides itself upon being a nonprofit organization. The beauty of the organization is that no athlete is denied participation because of economic struggles. Since the Special Olympics charges no fee for competing, there is no restriction on the number of athletes eligible. This means the Special Olympics depends completely upon receiving financial support from donations and sponsorships. In order to send one athlete to the 2007 World Games in Shanghai, China, it costs about $4,000. The money we collected will benefit the athletes directly, whether or not they attend the World Games. The organization is almost always in need of electronic equipment such as digital and video cameras to capture the unforgettable moments, and athletic equipment to supply the athletes such as tennis shoes and athletic apparel. Special Olympics accepts any donation, and each athlete is grateful for the opportunities and growth they derive from even the smallest donations. With the proceeds and funds we raised through “Kickin’ It Through the Night”, we hope to make a difference in the lives of the competitors. Once I had decided on a charity and an idea, my partners and I set a list of goals we wanted to accomplish. These goals included:
- Raise awareness throughout the school and community regarding Special Olympics.
- Raise $2000.00 to benefit Special Olympics.
- Connect local businesses and the general public to the event establishing positive relations.
First, we contacted Soccer Blast in Burnsville, MN as a potential venue to host the all night soccer tournament. We set up a meeting with a manager from the venue to discuss the possible project’s plan. The meeting was a success and Soccer Blast seemed very excited to host the event. Then, we sat down and created a possible list of local businesses that would be willing to sponsor our event. We developed a packet of information to send out to possible sponsors, including a sponsorship letter, schedule of events, and a letter describing the various levels of sponsorship. Next, we followed up with visits and phone calls to those possible businesses to ensure sponsorship participation. After we began organizing sponsorship information, we started to market and advertise the event. Our target market for participation in the event was high school students in the surrounding area. We developed a packet of registration materials to keep track of teams involved and inform players of the event. Once we began to receive items for the silent auction from local businesses, we began to plan this part of the event. We planned to hold the silent auction at a varsity basketball game the night before the soccer tournament. At the silent auction, we sold items that ranged anywhere from pizzas to fitness memberships and gift cards. From the help of announcements made throughout the game, to the awareness of the community, it came to be a great success. Following the silent auction, the next day the all night soccer tournament took place. It was scheduled to begin at 12:00 midnight on December 16th, 2007. Teams arrived around 11:30pm on December 15th, 2007 to check in and begin opening ceremonies. Our DECA chapter arrived around 10:45pm to begin set-up and preparation. The opening ceremony began at midnight with an explanation of the rules, purpose and schedule of events for the night. We stressed the importance of the charity and the purpose for the event. It was also important for players to abide by the set rules in order for the night to run smoothly. The venue had two indoor soccer fields, which allowed for two games to go on at one time. Each game was 30 minutes long, providing time for warm-up and halftime. We used an eight-team double elimination bracket in order to carry out the games of the tournament. We made sure teams were ready to play at their designated times to ensure we did not run out of time for the rented facility. Teams understood this and were always on time or early for their games. When teams were playing, they watched games, rested, or purchased t-shirts, raffle tickets, or water from members of the DECA chapter. After games were finished, announcements were made for winners of each field and location of next playing time. With the conclusion of the championship game, medals were awarded to the winning team and the raffle winner was announced. A short closing session to thank sponsors and once again inform people of the importance of the cause occurred. In the end, this project raised over $2500 that was donated directly to the Special Olympics. These proceeds will benefits the athletes in competition, medical expenses, and also training and equipment. Overall, the impact of “Kickin’ It Through the Night” will benefit Lakeville North DECA, Lakeville North High School, the Lakeville community, and more importantly, the individuals with intellectual disabilities involved with the Special Olympics. Not only have I gained beneficial skills to use in the real world, but more importantly I have the satisfaction of helping individuals who are less fortunate. I have gained so many skills due to the complex coordination and communication that was involved in making this project successful. Outside of the DECA chapter, our community is more aware of the effects the Special Olympics has on individuals. Before, they may have only believed that the organization developed individuals athletically. However, now the community and people are aware of the long lasting and empowering effects the Special Olympics organizations develops in individuals with intellectual disabilities. It’s funny how one person can have such a large effect on a person. If I hadn’t met Jessica Turner that one day in kindergarten, my life may have been significantly different, and the impact I’ve had on others’ lives could have been different also.