THE JOY OF GIVING

December 19, 2017
By: Kristi Fulkerson
It's the time of year when many of us are doing our last-minute shopping, making sure we have the perfect gifts for family and friends on Christmas. It's also the time when giving is at an all-time high. For those of us that work in the Lehigh Valley sports community all-year round though, it's easy to see the local teams and athletes that are hard at work 365 days of year. 

Some of the best stories we get to cover in sports are about everything but sports. Whether it's a donation to a food bank, a visit to the children's hospital, or a fundraiser to raise money for a worthy cause, each effort is special. Seeing the commitment by our local high school, college, and professional teams is both heartwarming and motivating. 

In November, I had a chance to witness the interaction between the Parkland girls soccer team and an Allentown family who's facing a harsh reality of an incurable disease. Over the course of the soccer season the Trojan players raised close to $18,500 as part of their Goal$4Dreams initiative. Players received pledges for each goal scored this season -- 101 in total -- and split their fundraising dollars to help with several charitable causes. 4-year-old Lewis (or LJ) is one of the young people benefiting from their generosity via a trip to Disneyworld. The team connected with him and his family through through the local organization, Dreams Come True.

Battling a very rare terminal disease, LJ was greeted that November day in a Parkland classroom with gifts, handmade cards, and his very own District XI gold medal (which he never took off). Walking through the room to say hi to the girls and collect his goodies, the little guy was on cloud nine! The team also surprised him with a visit from his favorite superhero -- Spiderman --  which was more than enough to make his day. At the time, LJ wasn't told about his trip (what kid understands they're going to Disney but not for a few months?) but seeing the happiness on his face was enough to make me shed a (discrete) tear. In fact, several players had the same reaction. Perspective is a crazy thing. 

The Parkland team also donated a new wheelchair to an Allentown man with Multiple Sclerosis and are supporting a former player, whose 3-year-old daughter is battling cancer, by purchasing a swing set to be used for fun & therapy purposes! Head Coach Al Haddad told me this week, they also have enough money to help another child who's dream is go to Disney. 

That's the team effort of a couple dozen high school athletes & a coaching staff going above and beyond to make a difference. Sure, the record books will say they were the 2017 EPC and District XI champions, but the Parkland Trojans are leaving a much bigger impact on the Lehigh Valley community. All in a season's work.