Athens, GA - Approaching the one-year anniversary of the earthquake in Haiti, Georgia Soccer volunteer coach Steve Nugent will travel to the Latin American nation with The GIVE N GO Project, a philanthropic organization founded by his former player and longtime friend Amber Tollefson.
Nugent will accompany Tollefson – who played for him with both Team Boca club and at Florida State University – to Haiti from Jan. 11-14. The GIVE N GO Project is a non-profit that uses soccer to improve the lives of the underprivileged in developing countries as well as in the inner cities in the United States.
The main objective of the program is to provide gently used soccer gear to participants and to mentor young athletes through soccer clinics, in which Nugent will play a sizeable role.
He and Tollefson will visit three orphanages and an amputee soccer team on the trip.
“People who have been in the game for a long time understand how important it is to give back,” Nugent said. “Soccer is a global sport. Here in this country we have so much as far as fields, equipment, and resources, but if you go to other places in the world – especially these developing countries – they don’t have grass on their fields or organized teams or uniforms.”
“This is an opportunity to bring that little piece of the game to them through clinics and bringing soccer gear to people who wouldn’t have it otherwise. It gives me a chance to give back to the game that has given me so much over the last 20 years.”
Nugent has spent three seasons on the Georgia staff primarily working with the goalkeepers. Prior to arriving in Athens he coached the Team Boca girls club team to a total of 12 Florida state championships since 1989. He was a graduate assistant at FSU while Tollefson was an All-ACC midfielder for the Seminoles in the early 2000s.
“Obviously he’s been an invaluable part of our program and we were fortunate to keep him on board this season,” said Georgia head coach Steve Holeman. “I think he’s got an incredible opportunity to share his knowledge and experience with those that are less fortunate and just give back to the game down in Haiti. We’re excited for him.”
The equipment that the group will bring to Haiti – which Tollefson said will probably equal 25 bags worth – was all donated from soccer clubs and at various tournaments.
Tollefson started GIVE N GO this past summer after beginning to travel on her own dime several years ago and realizing the impact a charity soccer program could have on young people in poor areas.
She now works full-time as a coordinating producer for the Miami Heat’s “Inside the Heat” television show and lives in Miami. Recently Dwyane Wade filmed a video message in support of the program.
“For these kids without families, soccer is what these kids cling to,” Tollefson said. “Obviously it’s the world’s most beloved game. It lets some of these people escape from what could be an otherwise harsh reality. And with the year anniversary of the earthquake coming up, we felt like it was an important time to go to Haiti. We expect it to be an emotional trip. These kids use soccer to escape whatever they might be going through and we’re lucky to be a part of that in whatever way we can.”
Also going on the trip will be Florida Tech women’s soccer coach Fidgi Haig, a long-time friend of Nugent’s who lost his father in the 2010 earthquake.
Tollefson has known Nugent since she was eight years old and looks forward to sharing the experience with her old friend.
“Steve is one of the most important people in my life,” she said. “He’s just a fantastic individual as well as a great soccer coach. He’s very knowledgeable about the game and about life, so when he found out what I was doing he basically dropped everything and wanted to be on board and wanted to help.”
“He taught me everything I know about soccer and has helped me tremendously off the field. He’s the type of person who just cares so much, and wants to know what’s going on with his players off the field, outside the lines. Through the years we’ve maintained our relationship and he’s been huge for this project.”
The official Web site of The GIVE N GO Project describes its mission as “Impacting Lives Through Soccer.” It does so through the pillars of community involvement, corporate sponsorship, equipment/uniform distribution, professional soccer training, scholarship opportunities, increased female participation, mentoring program, and health and wellness promotion. For more information, visit www.thegivengoproject.org.