By Claire Harlin
About a month and a half ago, two local teens started thinking of something they could do during the summer to help their community. Remembering how expensive it was for them to go to soccer camp as a kid, they decided to put on a free camp for youth who can’t afford it.
Michael Stewart, 14, and Jason “JT” Henderson, 13, both freshmen at Torrey Pines High School, love playing soccer and their two-day camp, Goals for Kids, ended up being a fun source of learning and inspiration for about 20 kids living in the Eden Gardens area. Held on Aug. 21 and 22 at La Colonia Park, the co-ed camp focused on mechanics and gave the kids, ages 7 to 12, an opportunity to play games and win prizes such as Jamba Juice gift cards and soccer balls.
“It feels really good to get to help,” said Michael, of Carmel Valley. “We had everything given to us, so for us, it wasn’t even a second thought.”
He added, “The expressions on the kids’ faces were so cool.”
Jason, of Rancho Santa Fe, said one camp attendee came up to him and thanked him and said he wished the camp were longer.
Michael and Jason played in the Carmel Valley Manchester league when they were younger, and Michael said he remembers being inspired by practicing with some of the older players.
“It’s more meaningful for kids to teach other kids,” he said. “That camp really helped us because they were still building their skills too.”
Jason said he really got to bond with the kids, which was “really cool.”
“When you are younger, you look up to the older kids,” he said.
The boys, who now play for the San Diego Surf Soccer Club, said the camp was challenging because the different ages and genders of participants resulted in different playing styles, but fortunately the teens employed some of their friends to help out as volunteer camp counselors.
Their helpers, all Carmel Valley residents, included: Greg Matus, 13; Gabe Gitter, 13; Jordan Karam, 14; Zari Edlin, 13; Hallie Berman, 13; Peter Copp, 14; and Larsen Schlachter, 14.