Soccer Tournament Sponsors 24 Children in Sierra Leone


Four days before the 2015 Kitsap Cup soccer tournament, things looked grim. Only 13 teams had signed up. Volunteer tournament director Erin Bernard wondered if the event would raise enough money to continue sponsoring the 17 children in Sierra Leone they’ve supported for the past several years.

“Every year we definitely have to give it all up [to God], because there’s no guarantee that we’ll be able to support the kids,” says Bernard. 
The night before the event, tournament co-founder Louie Bond called Bernard with good news: 31 teams had signed up! Now they had more than enough teams donating to sponsor the children for another year.
“Somehow by the grace of God it always happens,” says Bernard. The tenth annual Kitsap Cup was off to a record breaking start.
“It’s one thing to preach of a God that loves us,” says Bond, “but to give something practical [through sponsorship], that’s God showing the children love in ways like education, food, medicine, shelter, and safety. Those are immeasurable gifts.”
On New Year’s Day, soccer lovers converged at the Olympic Sports Center in Bremerton, Washington, to play their favorite sport and help children in Sierra Leone. Even Seattle Sounders forward Victor Mansaray came out to help. Born and raised in Sierra Leone, Victor knows the great needs in his country and was happy to sign jerseys, shoes, and even play a couple of games in the tournament. 
The Kitsap Cup founders plan to host this tournament for many more years to come. “We really believe that we’re doing the Lord’s business here,” says Louie Bond. “This is not a short term deal, it’s a long term endeavor.”
“This year was amazing,” Bond says. “It surpassed even our wildest imaginations.” The tournament raised enough money to sponsor a total of 24children for one year, through Children of the Nations (COTN). 
“Our slogan is 'Futbol for Life,'” says Bond. “Soccer is appreciated and loved in Sierra Leone, too. It transcends status of economics and family. In this situation, we’re playing for life. It’s giving life, it’s breathing life, it’s partnering with COTN. That’s what it means to us.”
  “Soccer is appreciated and loved in Sierra Leone, too,” Bond says. “It transcends status of economics and family.”
The tournament participants feel connected to the children they’re playing for. At the beginning of the day, each team is given a photo of a sponsored child. Throughout the day, they have the opportunity to learn more about their child and how sponsorship is changing their lives. They can even write letters to the children they are playing for. 
Teams are given a sign with their sponsored child’s photo and they can spend their down time writing letters to the children and learning about what daily life is like in Sierra Leone.
“At first some of these people have no idea the effect they’re having on these children’s lives and their families’ lives,” says Bernard. By the end of the day, participants feel invested in their sponsored child’s wellbeing. “We have teams who come every year and they want to play for their same child,” says Bernard. 
                   This year, through a raffle, the Kitsap Cup raised almost $500 to fight Ebola in Sierra Leone.
As the day wears on and competition gets heated, playing for a child helps teams stay focused on the reason behind the game. “We minimize the idea of being a champion,” says Bond. “You’re providing life for your child,” he tells the teams. “This is not about us, it’s about them.”
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