If you pass by the Cape Cod Challenger Club this weekend, don’t be surprised by the presence of numerous cardboard boxes. It’s all part of the Sleep Out Soccerthon being held by student athletes and coaches of UK Soccer Development (a.k.a. UKSD).
“Basically we’ve got 38 high school kids and four UKSD coaches and we’re getting cardboard boxes and we’re going to spend the night in cardboard boxes to raise awareness about childhood homelessness,” said Lee Docherty, UKSD founder and CEO, who conceived the event.
From 9 p.m. May 10 through 7 a.m. May 11 athletes and coaches will be taking turns alternating between spending the night in donated appliance boxes (courtesy of KAM Appliances) and participating in a 10-hour continuous soccer marathon.
“It’s very safe and structured, but it’s going to be as close to a night on the streets as possible,” said Docherty.
Participants in the event, being held to raise awareness about the seriousness of childhood homelessness, aren’t allowed to use technological devices during the event (no phones, music players or computers), and are allowed to have only limited items with them.
“We want to take away the technological aspect of being on the phone, and make it as real as possible,” Docherty said.
It is Docherty’s hope that the event will shine a spotlight on the rising numbers of children who are homeless. UKSD athletes who took part conducting a state survey regarding youth homelessness were stunned to learn that since 2007 the rate of childhood homelessness has risen 38 percent in the United States. It is estimated that there are at least 100 homeless teens at Barnstable High School.
The issue is one of many that falls high on Docherty’s priority list. Having known poverty in his own life, and having seen it during his time in the military, Docherty has made it a UKSD mission to combat poverty by doing whatever they can to help.
“I grew up in poverty,” he said. “I’ve seen the real issues that affect some people.”
In recent years UKSD soccer players have held food drives, charity soccer tournaments and even traveled this year to the Caribbean to donate soccer equipment and offer free clinics to people in Dominica.
“We just try to find a way to educate the kids about things,” Docherty said. “Social issues like homelessness, substance abuse, hunger.”
Sports such as soccer can often provide a way to get people involved, as well as empower them to make even small changes in their communities.
“I just think that sports in general are a massive tool for kids. It’s a great way for them to learn,” Docherty said. “I think what gets neglected are real life issues. Kids are our best teachers and we kind of dismiss the power they can have.”
Because soccer is a sport that is played worldwide, it offers a platform on which change can begin.
“It’s more than just a game,” said Docherty. “I think just giving kids the opportunity to learn what goes on throughout the rest of the world will make them better people.”
Promoting UKSD events also offers Docherty the chance to highlight the good that young people on Cape Cod are doing for their community and other communities in the world.
“We just want people to recognize the program and recognize the good that the kids are doing,” Docherty said. “The more awareness that we have, the more good we can do in a community.”
To make a donation to and learn more about UKSD visit uksd.org.