Wanting to give back to those less fortunate is great, but starting a charity is truly special. We spoke with Lily Sowle, the girl responsible for the Lily’s League bins you can find at GSI Sports tournaments, to see what inspired her and where she sees her organization heading!
What is Lily’s League?
Lily: Lily’s League is a philanthropy that takes gently used soccer gear, and ensures that it is donated to kids in need. I will put temporary donation bins out for soccer teams or clubs to place their gently used soccer equipment. Then, I store those donations in my garage until there are enough items to send to an organization.
How did Lily’s League start/ what was the inspiration behind the idea?
Lily: One day I listened to one of my role models, Max Touloute a professional soccer player, talk about how he grew up in Haiti and the kids there had to play soccer with a ball made from plastic bags because they couldn’t afford a ball, or cleats for that matter.
My dad once told me that the average Haitian lives on the equivalent of $2 per day. I thought about the cleats and extra soccer balls my sisters and I had in my garage, and wondered if other families had similar soccer gear in their homes that we could all donate. Just like a “league” of kids that come together to play a sport, “Lily’s League” was a name that hopefully inspires people to donate together.
Who are your recipients and where are they located?
Lily: Our recipients range from toddlers to teenagers. Some recipients are local while some are further away. For example, for the first set of donations we received in the fall, with the help of Sport Shake, we were able to ship the gear to Haiti.
A charity there helps orphans through school, community building, and the love of soccer. It is called “G.O.A.L.S. Haiti,” and you can learn more about them at lilysleague.com. It was really important to help them out especially after Hurricane Matthew devastated their island.
I would also like to donate to the Little Haiti Football Club, which is located in The Miami Florida area. My dad told me about a very poor high school boy there that showed up to a game with shin guards made for a 6-year-old, but was told by the ref that he could not play the game because they didn’t fit properly. With some of our donations, it will feel good to be able to help other kids like him still be able to play soccer.
Any personal encounters with recipients you would like to share?
Lily: So far, all of my in-person interactions have been with people donating. However, I did receive a nice letter from the orphanage in Haiti saying thank you for our donations. For the next round of donations, I am hoping to be able to go to Little Haiti to personally hand them out. Maybe during spring break.
What are your goals over the next 2-3 years?
Lily: Some of my goals are to expand Lily’s League to more soccer teams and tournaments. The more exposure we can get, the more we can make other kids happy. I would love to be able to get to 10,000 items donated. Right now it’s about 500.
Where are your donation bins located?
Lily: My donation bins are located around five Kansas City indoor soccer practice areas. There is a list of locations on my website. I would like to expand that though!
What has been the overall feedback from recipients, peers, businesses, or fellow athletes?
Lily: The G.O.A.L.S. Haiti director was very appreciative and posted our link on their social media as a good example. My friends have donated, and they think it’s nice to give back. My soccer coach loved the idea and donated some really nice jerseys and other gear from some of his former professional teams he played for.
Can you give advice or encouragement to others wanting to start a program that gives back to their community?
Lily: My advice is to just go for it. If you have an idea that comes from the heart, usually other people might think it’s a good idea too. When I first started Lily’s League, I didn’t know if other people might donate, but I went with it. I didn’t know if soccer clubs would want to help spread the word, or for that matter, I didn’t think I would have a lot of donations. Another piece of advice is to never doubt yourself and stay positive because you aren’t doing this for you, you are doing this for someone in need.
What are the best ways to learn more about Lily’s League?
Lily: The best way to learn more about Lily’s League is the Lily’s League website. On the website, you can learn about how it started, what we do, some recent donations, and where current donation bins are located. There is also a link to a video with more information about G.O.A.L.S. Haiti.
School Name: St. Therese
Favorite Athlete: Nicole Barnhart and Max Touloute
Favorite Sport: Soccer
Favorite Food: Grilled chicken breast with vegetables