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Hernando Soccer Club Collects Gifts for Kids in Need

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This holiday season, a group of young Hernando athletes stepped forward to provide a merry Christmas for children in need—scoring some winning ‘goals’ when it comes to kindness and caring.

Members of the Hernando Soccer Club provided toys and clothes for 15 children served by the Matthew Project; a nonprofit organization that supplies holiday gifts for homeless/impoverished children registered in Hernando County Schools’ backpack food programs.

This inspiring giving project, according to HSC Soccer Coach Angie Rodeo, has a rich history in the club. “We started helping with the Matthew Project in 2018, this is our sixth year,” she explained. “It started with just my competitive girls’ team the first year and then year after year more and more teams joined in. Now it is a tradition!” she said. “We have the players and families all come on the same day to wrap so we can help give the kids a sense of what it means to help other children in our community—Hernando County Fire Rescue station 3 wrapped with us this year and took on a whole bunch of children from Matthew’s Project to buy for as well, they brought the trucks and one dressed as the grinch.”

This project, Rodeo revealed, stemmed from a desire to give—and to pass on the giving spirit to the kids of the Hernando Soccer Club. “I was looking for things for my players to do for the community, we had done a Thanksgiving project with Holy Cross Lutheran Church for a foster family, and they really were receptive to it,” she said. “So I went online to find someone they could help for Christmas and it was one of the first things that came up.”

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This year, this sublime giving endeavor grew substantially in size and scope. “The project is opened up to the entire club but our competitive teams each get their own child,” she said. “14 competitive teams and one recreational team (and two families) participated this year. Around 120 players and of course their families.”

In fulfilling the wishes of children in need, these soccer teams came together to score the ultimate goal. “The project gives you a list that includes a child and three gift wishes and also all shoes/shirt/pant sizes. Each team fulfills the wishes and even more, some fill the entire table,” Rodeo explained. “Then it is delivered to the school for their parents or guardian to pick up.”

The players were conscientious in their buying choices. “They buy what the child asks for on their wish list but we also try to get clothes. For example, two siblings asked for uniforms for school this year, so of course we did that, and a bunch of toys,” said Rodeo.

The kids, said Rodeo, took great pride in their participation in the Matthew Project. “Some of our older players go out to the store on their own,” she said, “and some of our little guys make things like stockings and cards.”

For all of the gifts that the children give as a part of this very special effort, they get so much more in return. “Community projects are very important in developing character. We hope they learn that just taking a little bit of time to help someone can make all the difference,” said Rodeo. “The goal is to have our players carry these experiences with them and continue to give back when they are older or even start their projects in the community. Hernando does the Matthew Project, but also we try to help other programs. Last year we went out to the humane society, we participate in canned food drives, we have a wonderful program called TOPS that our athletes and members volunteer for as well.”

Kayliana Thach, U19 Girls, feels that it is greatly important to help people in need. “The community service projects I have done with Hernando Soccer such as the Matthews Project, TOPS and helping at the Humane Society have taught me that it is important to always help others in need and to always appreciate everything you have,” she said.

“This is my third year participating in the Matthew Project and each year I know how important it is to take time to give to others. I know that my teammates and I are very lucky so it is nice to be able to help give to another child at Christmas time. It is one of my favorite traditions to do with my soccer team,” said Mason Barrett – U11 Boys.

Dylan Freshwater – U19 Boys team said that he learned a great deal from his participation in the Matthew Project. “What I learned from the Matthew Project is that not all kids in the world have what some people have. Some people are less fortunate than others and the least people can do is to help them out when they are in need,” he said. “The kids in this program are not as lucky or special as we are but doing this program really brings out the most important part, to make them feel special or make them feel loved and show that other people care about them. I have been doing this project for a few years and have not seen one kid’s reaction but I don’t need to, because I just know that helping kids in need is the only important thing.”

Monte Patterson, Matthew Project founder, takes great pride in the efforts of the Hernando Soccer Club in providing a happy holiday for the children he serves.

“The Hernando Soccer Club has been a great sponsor for many kids in The Matthew Project for many years. It is awesome to see how they always go ALL OUT for the children they are sponsoring. They always have their soccer players of all ages participate in the purchasing of the gifts which will give them the gift of giving throughout their lives,” he said. “Then they come together to wrap the gifts, which is a fun time for all. The Hernando Soccer Club is a GREAT partner with the Matthew Project and loves all kids.”

For more information, visit https://www.facebook.com/thematthewproject1225

Megan Hussey
Megan Hussey
Megan Hussey is a features journalist and author who is the winner of Florida Press Association honors and a certificate of appreciation from LINCS (Family Support Domestic and Sexual Violence Prevention Task Force) and Sunrise Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Center for her newspaper coverage of these issues. She graduated cum laude from Ball State University in Muncie, Ind., with a journalism major and English/sociology minor, and previously wrote for publications that include the Pasco editions of The Tampa Tribune and Tampa Bay Times. A native of Indiana, she lives in Florida.
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