Friday, April 25, 2014
YOLO COUNTY NEWS
99 CENTS

Changing the world, one jersey at a time

1112 2TS W

Michael Vernau, left, and Brian Birt stand in a spare room at Vernau's house where they keep all the donated soccer gear they gather and send to impoverished areas. Wayne Tilcock/Enterprise photo

A spare bedroom in the Vernau family’s house is no longer exactly spare. Every bit of it, in fact, from the closet space to the drawers, is full. Shelf space is piled high and even the bed isn’t safe — that, too, has become a holding area.

Everywhere in this room there’s soccer stuff: jerseys, shorts, socks, cleats, shirts, balls … whatever a team might need to play a game, it’s here. Even uniforms and equipment for referees.

Jerseys are sorted by size and color with team sets packaged together. Already, there are nearly a dozen sets ready to outfit complete teams.

Davis High School senior Brian Birt, a member of the varsity soccer team, estimates there are 1,000 items in all — and all of it donated by the community so that kids in impoverished areas of the world can play a somewhat official game of soccer.

Holmes Junior High ninth-grader Michael Vernau — who plays for the DHS junior varsity team — began this large collection with his own unneeded soccer gear after hearing from his coach, Jammal Anibaba, how kids at Anibaba’s alma mater in Nigeria play the game without any of the accoutrements that Davis kids are used to.

They play with a ball fashioned from bunched-up plastic bags tied with string, Vernau said, barefoot on the pitch and certainly with no uniforms to speak of.

Hearing that, Vernau decided to take action.

“I looked in my drawers and had tons of old uniforms and cleats collecting dust,” Vernau said. “I started with my stuff, and then began asking friends.”

Turns out most were in the same boat: with jersey after jersey worn only for a single season, outgrown cleats and shorts and socks, too-small soccer balls and more.

“I figured they could be put to better use than just sitting in the back of my closet,” said Birt, who had been thinking along the same lines as Vernau and already had collected more than 300 items when the two decided to join forces.

Together they are in the process of forming a nonprofit, Second Touch Soccer or “2TS,” which operates under the logo of “Helping to change the world, one jersey at a time.”

And they already have.

Over the summer, 2TS prepared shipments for a school in Uganda as well as to Anibaba’s old high school in Nigeria.

Anibaba actually delivered the soccer supplies to Nigeria, while a friend of Vernau’s aunt, who does missionary work in Uganda, arranged for supplies to be delivered to a school there.

Vernau said the kids at Anibaba’s school were thrilled with their new soccer clothes and equipment and Anibaba was excited to see them outfitted much like the American kids he now coaches.

Since summer, the Davis teens have been collecting more and more. Dixon High School supplied a team’s worth of uniforms and the Davis community keeps coming through with donations as well.

All sizes and colors are welcome — from young child to adult.

“Now we’re working on a nonprofit status,” Vernau said, adding that that means a lot of paperwork, not to mention funding (they need lawyers to help draw up the bylaws and other documents).

To raise money, Vernau and Birt have been working a snack bar at tournaments, managing to raise some $800 that way, and will continue looking for fundraising opportunities in the future.

Birt, of course, will be heading off to college in less than a year so the boys want to be sure 2TS can be a sustainable operation, even when they’re not available to run it on a day-to-day basis.

That’s why they’re forming the nonprofit, complete with a board of directors, to keep things going well in to the future.

“Hopefully, the nonprofit status will help it last,” Vernau said.

And while African countries have been their two beneficiaries so far, Vernau said there is no limit to where their assistance can go.

“Soccer is the global sport, so where it’s needed is where it goes,” he said.

Even locally.

Hearing about kids in need in Davis and Woodland, 2TS has stepped up and helped children nearby and will continue to do so.

They still need community support, of course, especially with all those unneeded uniforms and equipment. They’ll collect, wash and distribute all of it, the boys said.

To donate, contact Vernau and Birt at secondtouchsoccer@yahoo.com. Or find them on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, and learn more at www.secondtouchsoccer.com.

— Reach Anne Ternus-Bellamy at aternus@davisenterprise.net or 530-747-8051. Follow her on Twitter at @ATernusBellamy

Anne Ternus-Bellamy

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