Lance Halberg is using his lifelong passion for soccer — all 10 years and 364 days of it — to help children in Haiti recover from the devastating earthquake two years ago.
At his 11th birthday party Friday, the Winona resident plans to collect donations of soccer equipment instead of presents, and send it all south to the island country.
“I just want them to get better,” Lance said. “They really need the equipment.”
He plans to send the donations to FONDAPS, a program started in 2007 by Haitian businessman Patrice Millet, who, after winning a battle with rare bone cancer, decided to change the direction of his life and give back to the community. The program focuses on providing education through sports like soccer, and gives support, encouragement and help for some of the nation’s poorest youths in the capital of Port-au-Prince.
Lance’s father, Jeff, played soccer growing up and is a coach at Saint Mary’s University. So it was little surprise that Lance’s crib had a soccer ball in it, and that he started playing at 4. When his mother, Jennifer, saw a segment on CNN about Millet and his foundation, she shared it with Lance. After a bit of discussion, Lance decided he would rather donate to the program than get presents for his birthday.
His family is also partnering with Hy-Vee, Mugby Junction, the YMCA and Bluffview Montessori School to collect additional items. Jeff said FONDAPS accepts all kind of new and used soccer equipment. Balls, shinguards, shoes, socks, old jerseys and shorts are all welcome.
“They’re just happy to pass anything along to the kids,” Jeff said.