St. Raphael Catholic Church hosted the Haitian Amputee Soccer team during their Cup of America tour. The church brought in the team for three nights so that they could have a place to eat and rest. St. Raphael opened up their Parish Hall which was more than enough space that the team needed. In addition, staff members of the church volunteered to cook and serve for the team. However, whats most surprising was the way that this was orchestrated all in one day.
The Haitian amputee soccer team played against the USA on Saturday the 29th during the afternoon for the championship. Later that evening they showcased some of their player's talents with the United States players during the Orange County SC half time show. Four Haitians and four Americans walked onto the pitch and began passing, juggling and even playing a game of keep away in front of hundreds of spectators.
After the show, the team was invited to the Marriott Hotel to eat and shower after a long day of playing. Right when the team was about to leave a gentleman approached one of the volunteers on the team and asked if they were from Haiti. When he found out that they were from Port-au-Prince he was ecstatic to meet the players. He gathered with his wife Jennifer and his daughter for a team picture and then he shared his experience in Haiti during the devastating earthquake back in 2010. Lieutenant Colonel John Connolly responded to the emergency call after the Hôtel Montana collapsed. Roughly 300 people were reported missing so John and his squadron had the responsibility of retrieving all the dead bodies from the rubble. "It was a heartfelt and spiritual moment," the Lieutenant Colonel said. With nowhere else to go after the tour, John and his wife reached out to their community in Santa Barbara to arrange accommodations for the Haitian Amputee Soccer team for a few days.
After the tour ended, the team headed for Augoura Hills Monday morning for a special presentation from Joni Eareckson Tada at her facility. With the plans still up in the air, the team was uncertain where they would be going next. But right as the team were preparing to load up on the bus and leave the facility, a text message arrived from John stating that St. Raphael Catholic Church would host the team. The team immediately departed for Santa Barbara and arrived in the evening to the church with open arms and big smiles from all the volunteers. Youth leader Mariah Lopez welcomed the team into the Parish Hall and showed the team around the church and it's school. Director of Youth John Vasellins was responsible for opening the doors to the church. After returning from a youth camp he immediately looked into the church's calendar to make sure that the Parish Hall was not booked by any other ministry or organization. When he found out that the room would be open for a few days he immediately contacted Lt. Conley back to invite the team out. Church chef Dennis Santana was responsible for cooking and preparing food for all 18 strangers. Dennis had always wanted to travel to a third world country to help those suffering from starvation. One of the countries on his list was Haiti, however due to his demanding work schedule he was unable to find the time to travel. When he heard that a group of people from Haiti were coming to his city he immediately took the initiative to cook. Media/Marketing director Christie Rojo and church volunteer Kylie McCue also helped with coordinating the church BBQ the next night.
The following day, the Haitian amputee soccer team were scheduled to speak at Santa Barbara Community Academy. The Haitians got a chance to showcase their talents in front of 100 children. After the presentation the children flocked to the soccer players to grab their autographs. Later that evening members from St. Raphael Catholic Church and the community came to watch the Haitians play against the kids that came out. Afterwards the church had prepared a BBQ meal for everybody. Operation Go Quickly President Fred Sorrells gave a short testimony of each team member and showed a trailer for an upcoming documentary that his organization is producing called the Pursuit of Hope and Fracillion's Story. He was also able to show highlights to all the goals against the United States from the championship match. Afterwards a gentleman named Juan approached one of the volunteers of the Haitian soccer team for a favor. Although he couldn't see the team play, he wanted to introduce the Haitian Soccer team to his club team. Juan coaches Esportiko which comprises of 50 kids both boys and girls ages 7-11.
The following evening the Haitian Amputee Soccer team visited the children during their soccer practice and had the opportunity to play against each other. After the scrimmage, Fred Sorrells shared a brief story about the team and shared more about the sport of amputee soccer. At the end of the practice, the children flocked to the Haitian soccer team for their autographs because they were so astonished and confused as to how the Haitians could play so well with one leg. In addition, partnerships were developed with another coach named Hector. Hector collects abandoned soccer gear from the high school he works at and donates them to his community back home in Mexico. Because of the impact that the Haitians left him, Hector brought a carload of soccer gear to donate to the team. Lastly, one of the mothers on the team decided to reach out to her company to help find a way to sponsor the team.
With such short notice, the community of St. Raphael Catholic Church and Santa Barbara were able to host a load of strangers ultimately to bless each other. The Haitians will continue their tour in Texas during the following dates and cities:
Ft. Worth Tour
Aledo: Aledo High School Stadium, Friday, Aug. 11 at 7 p.m.
Weatherford: Game On Arena Sports, Saturday, Aug. 12 at noon & FC Dallas Game at 7 pm
Fort Worth: TCU Stadium, Sunday, Aug. 13 at 7 p.m.
Grapevine: Mustang Stadium, Monday, Aug. 14 at 7 p.m.
You can find all the latest news and donate to the Haitian Amputee Soccer team through the Operation Go Quickly Website.
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