The Comets home game against the Milwaukee Wave on December 13 has been designated as the ‘Day of Giving' for this year. Numerous charities that the Comets players are involved with will be represented for fans to donate items at the game. Leo Gibson's Kick for Christ, Byron Alvarez's Ball Throw, Coady Andrews' Toca City Soccer Outreach program and Lucas Rodriguez and the Galaxy Girls with Blair's Foster Socks.
Comets veteran Leo Gibson started his Kick for Christ organization two years ago but it has roots back to his childhood in Liberia. When Gibson was 19 he came to the U.S. as a refugee from the ongoing civil war in Liberia.
"A few years ago I had this vision, a way of being a blessing because my life has been blessed," Gibson explained. "Growing up in Liberia and being very privileged to leave Liberia in the middle of the civil war, coming to the U.S. and getting a scholarship, going to school and from there an opportunity to live the dream and use the gift that God has given me. It was a way of me asking God how can I give back? How can I be a blessing because I have been blessed? This was something that was a vision that I had and since then God has been a faithful answerer of my prayers, providing opportunities for this vision to become a reality. I do this because it is a way of giving back, not just to Liberia but to kids in need because I used to be in that position."
Kick for Christ is collecting anything that kids can use for sports, new or gently used balls, shoes, shorts, shirts, shin guards or training gear. Any sports gear but mostly soccer gear. Leo says that tennis balls are great as well.
"Growing up I never played with soccer shoes, never really played with soccer balls," Gibson recounted. "We played with plastic bags filled with grass in it or papers or old rags. Even an old pair of socks, just anything we could find and form into the shape of a soccer ball and kick it. A tennis ball was one of the best things we had; we played on the sidewalks, on the streets barefooted until our toenails came out. I look back on those days and I cherish it. It taught me so much and it helps me appreciate so much in life. This is a way of me looking back and saying I have been blessed. The position I find myself in now, the best thing I can do to glorify God is to use the gift he has given me to impact other people's lives."
Liberia is a more peaceful place now, they have elected the first female president in Africa (she is running for a second term) but after a fourteen year civil war it will take time for old wounds to heal, for people to reconcile with each other. Gibson hopes that sports will help with that.
After the Comets season is over, Gibson and a team from around the Kansas City area will head to Liberia for 10 days to hand out the sports gear. Kick for Christ is sharing some soccer balls with the Liberian Youth Sports Ministry in exchange for them arranging to get the shipping container out of customs. They will hold soccer clinics while they are there as one of the means of distributing balls and shoes to as many kids as possible.
Leo also helps out locally
Gibson does not just help out his native Liberia; he is driven to help wherever he is needed. Many soccer players supplement their income coaching for clubs in the area or giving private lessons. Gibson coaches kids around the city including teams from Van Horn in Independence and Alta Vista from downtown and does it because the kids need it. "Everyday I wake up, instead of going to coach a club team and make money, I find more joy to work with these kids," Gibson stated. "It's priceless to see the looks on their faces. I took them into a tournament to give them something to do, keep them off the street but they took it to a whole new level, they won games and went to the finals."
"In the past few months the kids have come so far," Leo continued. "From being stubborn to being tender hearted and understanding what it's like to work with somebody else. Before we practice we have bible time for 15-20 minutes, sometimes a pastor comes and talks with them; last time it was nutritionist about taking care of themselves."
Gibson goes a long way to find opportunities for these kids on and off the field. "Last year we had our Christmas dinner at Pandolfi's deli, they hosted us," Leo recalled. "All the kids came dressed up because they don't have proms. This was something they could enjoy and they had a wonderful time, it was packed."
At the game Friday, some of his kids will get to play on the field before the Comets game and the Comets have made sure that over 100 of these kids have tickets for the match against Milwaukee.
Leo is quick to point out how happy it makes him to help these kids. "It makes me grateful. It gives me so much joy and peace to know that God has placed me in their life to be a reflection of Him, to show them unconditional love in appreciation for who they are and what they have to offer. One thing I really emphasize with them is not letting the reality they find themselves in define their life."
"Just to give them hope, to let them know it doesn't matter where you are from or who you are," Gibson added. "Once you dream that you work towards it will become a reality. You have to trust God in the process. Once you trust in God, anything is possible. My life is an example of that. I came from Liberia during the civil War and went to Tennessee, went to a kick around and did not know I was playing with a bunch of coaches, that is how I got the opportunity to go to school. It was God's blessing, God's timing and since then He has opened so many doors."
Gibson also makes sure that he minimizes his role and talks about others as much as possible. He happily points to people around the area that help organize and box supplies, kids that collect donations for his charity. Even kids that have birthday parties ask friends to bring used soccer gear instead of presents.
His Comets team mates are always helping as well and he wanted to point out that Danny Waltman has done numerous assemblies with him, Comets captain Vahid Assadpour is almost inseparable from Gibson while helping him, and John Sosa and former team mate Ibrahim Kante as well as many other team mates have all helped his charity to help others.
Kick for Christ does not just focus on sports, they also work to help collect books for the Children Lifetime Education Foundation. "They are collecting books to establish a library in Liberia and we are collaborating now to see how I can use the platform that I have to help them," Gibson said.
"I do this for one reason and one reason only, to glorify God. It's not just kindness from my heart, it is something God has placed on my heart to do," Gibson professed.