Thousands of soccer players make their way to the USA CUP, presented by PUMA, each year, but what exactly does it take for teach team to get here? For teams coming from across the world, a multitude of decisions have to be made about how to make the trip happen. Countless hours of fundraising went into the effort for the three teams in the Cayman Islands in the U12, U13 and U14 age groups, allowing them to depart from the island and arrive at the Minnesota soccer fields.
The Cayman Islands are a British Overseas Territory compromised of three islands, including Grand Cayman, Cayman Brac and Little Cayman. With a tropical marine climate and relatively cool winters the islands are a major financial center in the Caribbean, attracting thousands of tourists to the long stretches of beaches and tropical environment each year.
The USA CUP can be a costly tournament for teams to participate in, between tournament fees, plane tickets, hotels and a variety of other costs. Raising money is a great solution for international teams looking to get to the United States that have trouble affording the expenses. An enormous amount of hard work and planning goes into the efforts of these teams, but the tournament has been well worth the time spent for the Cayman Island players.
"It's been really fun and different," said U14 team captain Luca Polloni. "I've never been to anything like this and it's exciting."
This is the second year that the Grand Cayman teams have come to the USA CUP, and memories of the tournament from the previous year have proved to be a good incentive in the money raising process. Although not all of the players had the chance to come to the tournament last year they were still looking forward to the opportunity for this year. Hearing stories and explanations from the Cayman Island players who had been to the tournament before was a good motivation for the teams to jump on the fundraising.
"All of the new kids could feel the excitement from last year," said parent Kathryn Guitard. "It made them even more excited to come."
So how did all of the fundraising get started for the Cayman Island players? The teams started raising money in January after organizing events and planning out the details. But it wasn't just the players who took part in the money raising. Coaches and parents were a big part of the efforts as well, playing an important role in the process and working hard to make the trip happen.
"We did fundraising almost every month. We had three garage sales, a raffle and a fish fry - Caribbean style," added a smiling Rose Wright, parent of one of the Cayman Island players.
The teams slowly chipped away at their trip expenses with each event that took place, vastly minimizing their costs. The fish fry brought in nearly $3,000 for the teams, but the raffle was by far their biggest success, raising them nearly $10,000. Each player was required to sell a minimum of two books of raffle tickets, but the incentive of a $150 gift card to the player selling the most tickets added excitement in the form of a competitive edge to the fundraiser, quite fitting for a group of soccer players.
"The team loved selling the tickets. They really got into it," said parent Betty Ann Scott. "They were really excited about coming here and really good about everything."
The players sold tickets throughout the Cayman Islands, gaining sales at malls and other local attractions. The raffle featured an assortment of prizes that included a TV, DVD player and other products and devices, but what sparked the most interest was the grand prize of a plane ticket from the airline Cayman Airways. The raffle seemed to be the favorite event for the majority of the Cayman Island players.
"It was my favorite fundraiser because I was with my friends and I got to meet other people," said Pollini. "We actually met a couple from Minnesota that was visiting the island while we were selling tickets. They knew about the USA CUP. It was really cool."
After working hard to raise thousands of dollars the Grand Cayman teams received some last minute help from a group of sponsors. A total of seven major sponsors supported the team, including everything from law firms to doctors and other corporations. Through all of the planning, preparation and effort the group of about 80 players, parents and coaches raised nearly $48,000. It truly was an accomplishment of hard work and dedication from the parents and teams.
"We're such a close family," said Scott. "We have a good set of boys and great coaches that care for every single one of them."
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Tag(s): July 21, 2011