Farris scores big for orphaned kids
A lot has changed since Randy Farris first started youth soccer camps in Summit County 31 years ago. Unfortunately, much has also stayed the same.
While Park City has expanded its borders to develop into a western ski Mecca, Farris has witnessed firsthand the jarring stagnancy of Third World slums. Since 2004, his Park City Soccer Camp collected donations from the local community to support a kids’ rescue mission in the Dominican Republic. After each camp’s conclusion, Farris jetted from posh mountain slopes to distribute aid in the heart of the world’s poverty crisis.
"It is an amazing experience," Farris said. "It’s such a fascinating dichotomy of events and a clash of cultures."
He recalls visiting a shack with seven children sleeping in one bed and finding the parents, alarmingly, proud to own such a place. So delighted were they to see the Americans that they offered their night’s portion of rice to them (which, urged by local leaders not to decline such an honor, they accepted). It takes a steel will to ration food, Farris said, since he knows many of the kids will not receive meals at home.
"Where do you draw the line?" he asked. "You start to fall in love with them. The kids are so appreciative of the littlest things."
This year’s camp marks a slight departure for Farris, who will instead pay a visit to Peru. Both destinations support Kids Alive International, a Christian mission dedicated to rescuing orphaned or vulnerable children that cares for more than 6,000 children in 17 countries.
Farris decided to get involved in Peru after a visit to Andahuaylas, a fairly large town isolated at about 12,000 feet in the Peruvian Andes. There, Farris was introduced to a man who took in more than 15 homeless children at a small villa. The man had been supported by an aging Canadian philanthropist, but her health became too frail to continue visits, and aid stopped coming in.
Kids Alive had caught wind of the situation and planned to build two houses for the children outside city limits, but before they could begin (last March) the government shut down the Peruvian man’s operation because the standing villa was too big of a health risk. The children were forced to return to the treacherous environments they came from.
National Director of Kids Alive in Peru Mike Fietje didn’t have enough funding to begin the project anew, so he lobbied Farris to pitch in. Farris agreed to visit, and afterward pledged to host afternoon soccer camps and bring a team of 16 workers to build two new houses during the cool evenings this summer.
Farris has had a soft spot for children since he started camps in 1979 with fellow coach Bob Martin. He coached women’s soccer at St. Mary’s College in California during the ’80s and ’90s – leading the Gaels to two national championships and serving as competition director for the 1999 women’s World Cup – but decided to retire from collegiate coaching and focus more on grassroots development and charities after accepting a position as a kinesiology professor.
Since taking his first trip to the Dominican in 2004, Farris has returned about four times each year. Most trips are just for a week, but he has stayed for up to a month. Farris and Clay Rowan tried to arrange a trip for Parkites this spring, but interest was just shy of the required threshold. They will try again to form a Park City team in the spring of 2011.
Park City is a vacation of sorts for Farris, a native Californian who has started his own nonprofit that currently serves an auxiliary to Kids Alive, called Here for Kids International.
"I love coming out there," Farris said. "Compared to the camps I do in California, I don’t know why, but the kids are just so excited and everyone is so helpful in Park City."
Farris said he tells Park City kids that their biggest advantage is not their material possessions, but the love they receive from their parents.
"Imagine scoring a goal or getting an ‘A’ on your report card and not having anybody to share it with, just walking off into the streets," he said.
The emphasis of Farris’ camp is more on playing fun games than drilling ad nauseum. Categories include "cat and mouse," "knockout" and "gumball" in which players try to score as fast as possible with 50 balls on the field.
The camp open to 7- to 15-year-olds of all skill levels – will open on June 28 at the North 40 field next to Treasure Mountain International School. Full-day sessions are $160, running from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., while half-day sessions are $85. All campers receive T-shirts, which Farris said have become quite collectable through the years. Farris’ camps also include off-the-wall team competitions such as spelling bees and math questions.
To sponsor a child through Kids Alive or learn more, visit http://www.kidsalive.org. Donations for the organization will also be accepted at the camps – with a specific need for used kids’ soccer uniforms, cleats and clothes.
School uniforms – lack of which prevents many in the Dominican Republic from attending school and perpetuates a vast racial divide – can also be purchased. The students wear plain black shoes, khaki pants and baby blue polo shirts.
Go to http://www.parkcityplaymagazine.org/webreg/Activities/ActivitiesDetails.asp?ProcessWait=N&aid=232 to register for the camp.
The Christian Center of Park City had a makeover last year, and its boutique felt it was time for one, too.