Joseph Lanzillo, of Glen Ellyn’s Boy Scout Troop 41, has collected and shipped over 300 pairs of gently used children’s athletic shoes to benefit Coaches Across Continents, an innovative development organization that uses soccer to build relationships and work with communities in Africa and around the world.
Lanzillo, 17, a senior on the Glenbard West Varsity Soccer team, and captain of FC Glen Ellyn Lakers U-17 team, conducted the shoe drive as part of his service project to earn the rank of Eagle Scout. He also organized barefoot soccer for local youth, to raise awareness of the needs in Africa and to generate funds to defray shipping costs.
He hosted “Barefoot Soccer for Barefoot Kids” on the indoor turf at Ackerman Sports and Fitness Center, consisting of a tournament for 8- and 9-year-olds in April and another one for high school players in June. Over 85 players, coaches, referees, and other volunteers turned out to support the project. “It was fun to play barefoot, but our turf is probably a lot softer than the fields they have in Africa,” said 8-year-old Tyler Yeager of Glen Ellyn.
With a captive audience of young soccer enthusiasts, Lanzillo took the opportunity to emphasize how passion for the “world’s greatest game” unites players of all ages and who come from vastly different circumstances. “Coaches Across Continents’ mission to use soccer to change lives inspired me to do this project,” said Lanzillo. “The kids they work with have nothing, but they still take incredible joy in the game, and something as simple as a hand-me-down pair of gym shoes can help this organization make a difference.”
The project has brought together players and coaches from Glenbard West, the Glen Ellyn Park District, and the Glen Ellyn Lakers Football Club, along with other local clubs. It also drew enthusiastic players from a youth-organized group calling itself the Glen Ellyn Premier League, which came about when West athletes from a variety of sports became energized by the 2010 World Cup and decided to form their own teams named for the world’s leading soccer nations. “GEPL’s excitement rubbed off in the barefoot tournament. People were just really into it, and that made it awesome.” says John Walor, also a senior at West and one of the key organizers of the league.
“We’d like to thanks Joseph for this wonderful contribution. He has worked tirelessly for ten months to make this happen and we look forward to getting these shoes onto the feet of children in our community programs in Africa.” Jamie Reilly, Business Advisory Board.