Photo: Peter Hvizdak / Hearst Connecticut Media
WOODBRIDGE — Brightly colored soccer cleats by the hundreds filled the parking lot Friday at the Everson Soccer Academy as part of an effort in which local youths are helping less fortunate counterparts in Brazil.
More than 500 pairs of gently used soccer cleats worn by local youth league players be headed to the South American nation later this year as part of an ongoing effort by a Southington-based non-profit, Cleats for Dreams. The organization was founded in 2015 by Alessandra Ozimkoski, a Brazilian citizen and her American born daughter Jasmine.
Young soccer players scurried about the parking lot, using brushes, soap and pails of water to clean the dirt and grass stains from donated athletic shoes. Other players penned hand-written notes in Portuguese so that the Brazilian children who receive the shoes will know a little bit about where they came from.
“So many players there don’t have shoes,” said Isabella Maciel, a Brazilian native who along with her husband Everson, owns the soccer academy, which is located on South Bradley Road. “Or if they do have shoes, they certainly aren’t as super colorful and super nice as what you see here.”
The shoes were collected from families whose children are enrolled in the soccer academy. One of the players, Ange Oliveira, said she will be “content in my heart knowing that other kids will ge getting good shoes.”
Vanessa Daou has twin 12-year-old sons who participate in the academy. Each of the boys go through cleats at rate of two per year, she said.
“They don’t wear them out, they just grow out of them,” Daou said. “This is a great idea because it’s hard for kids in the U.S. to understand that they can make a difference in the lives of others who are less fortunate.”
Ozimkoski, who works in the Brazilian consulate in Hartford, will hand deliver the cleats and other donated soccer related items to non-profit organizations in Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. And when she returns, she will bring back pictures of the recipients of the equipment so that donor can feel a little more connected with their Brazilian counterparts.
Ozimkoski has made about five trips to Brazil with cleats to donate. The idea for the shoe donations came when Ozimkoski was struggling to come up with an idea for a Christmas present to give her daughter.
“She used to play soccer and so I asked her if she wanted a new pair of cleats,” Ozimkoski said. “The ones she had were pretty new, but we knew they wouldn’t fit much longer. Jasmine suggested that donate them and asked her friends if they wanted to donate, too.