Evanston and New Trier may be rivals on the soccer field, but the two boys programs teamed up recently to donate hundreds of pairs of shoes, many of them soccer cleats, to orphans in Haiti.
“Cleats for Haiti,” as Evanston boys soccer coach Franz Calixte called the first-time effort, began this past summer when Calixte and his family were visiting the Caribbean country. Both of Calixte’s parents are from Haiti and many of his cousins still live.
One cousin, Kako Bourjolly, is a Haitian comedian with a charity called Kako’s Kids, which renovates orphanages, builds sports facilities, hosts summer camps and runs toy, clothing, book and back-to-school drives.
Calixte and two of his children, 13-year-old daughter Gabriella and 12-year-old son Zizou, spent time with Bourjolly visiting youth summer camps in Port-au-Prince, Pétion-Ville and Cité Soleil, and saw how happy children in soccer-mad Haiti were to receive a pair of cleats.
“I said: ‘I have 120 kids in the (Evanston soccer) program, and I can put it out there and we can battle to see which (level) can bring the most shoes,’” said Calixte, who said the Freshman B team ended up being most generous. “Our players, their feet grow so much and they always have to get the next thing (in soccer cleats). So, I know they all have these shoes that they don’t wear, but are not bad enough to just throw out.”
Calixte spread word of the effort to the Evanston girls soccer program, promoted the cleat drive around the high school and informed New Trier Freshman B assistant coach Jude Eliacin, a good friend. Eliacin got athletes in his program on board ahead of the Sept. 19 game between the Wildkits and Trevians.
The results even exceeded Calixte’s expectations.
The end of the shoe drive coincided with Bourjolly’s scheduled visit to Evanston on business. Calixte said Bourjolly sorted through the donated shoes and chose about 200 pairs to bring back to Haiti.
Initially, Bourjolly had planned to transport the shoes in his carry-on luggage. But the footwear filled four large duffle bags. So, Bourjolly took two bags back to Haiti with him from this trip, and plans to take the other two next month after another scheduled visit to the Chicagoland area.
Calixte said Bourjolly plans to send photos of the children in Haiti receiving the shoes, and Calixte said he will pass those photos on to his players.
“I want my boys to be able to see what they did,” Calixte said.
By: Dan Shalin | September 28, 2017