About the Program
"Going beyond boundaries and exceeding expectations."
Rush Equipment Assisting Children (R.E.A.C.H.) is a program that collects used or unwanted soccer equipment from Rush and other community members to donate to underprivileged children throughout the world. From tsunami victims, to Russian orphans, to the children of war torn Iraq, all benefit from the generous donations of Rush soccer and it's members. The simple thing of a soccer ball or soccer shirt can make a world of difference to a child that is gong through troubled times. The Colorado Rush encourages their members to donate used, unwanted or even new soccer equipment, such as balls, shoes, shin guards and uniforms so they can be distributed here locally and throughout the world to needy children.
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April 30th, 17 REACH ambassadors from Colorado Rush and Rush Pikes Peak gathered at the Colorado State Capitol building to be honored for all of their efforts on a recent November trip to South Africa. The ambassadors experience is detailed below.
'"On April 30th, the R.E.A.C.H. ambassadors and I had the opportunity to visit the state capitol. At first I thought all of the House members would be completely serious and strict, yet it was not a very serious environment until they had a debate. We were able to listen in on a debate over Renewable Energy for about thirty minutes after we were honored by Representative Timothy Dore for our mission to South Africa. Ryan Blarr, Jenna Hartley, and Ross Fowler were able to speak to CBS news concerning our trip while we listened to the debate. After listening in to the debate we were taken down to the House Committee Room 0109 to discuss our trip with Representative Dore. When we arrived in the room, an aide told us that Representative Dore would be unable to come and speak to us because he was required to be in the House to vote. In the room we received thanks from the aide for our services and while we waited for other representatives, Dennis John gave us an update on how the kids were doing down in Bottlebrush (the informal settlement we volunteered at in South Africa). Every once in a while he was interrupted by a different representative who praised us for what we had done in South Africa. Also, with the visits from the Representatives, we were able to hear stories about their contribution to the Capitol/Government. The legislative aide was inspired to be part of the government when his Uncle died in 9/11. Also, the aide was going to lose his job in less than a week once the debates were over, this was the case for the majority of the aides. From there the aide was to become a sandwich maker at Whole Foods. We also heard that the people that worked in the capitol usually had two jobs, for example, a man also had a job as a doctor. Overall, the trip to the capitol was a great experience because we realized how much other people appreciate what we have done to help our country's reputation and we were able to experience something that many people will never have the chance to do. Almost every person that worked at the capitol that talked to us on Tuesday told us how proud they were of us and offered their help." - REACH Ambassador Jaime Brunworth
"This Tuesday, April 30th our South Africa REACH travel group was reunited. Any reunion of our travel group is always a fun and meaningful time because of all the memories we share from our trip; however, this reunion was especially significant because our meeting place was the Colorado state capitol! We were honored by Representative Timothy Dore in front of the House of representatives, and towards the end of our visit we were also honored and praised by several Senators, Representatives, and Legislative Aides. The recognition from influential government figures showed us that our humanitarian work with REACH is truly important, not only in the lives of the African children we serve, but also because of how we represent our home state and nation. One of the representatives mentioned how proud he was that our group was able to travel abroad and help disprove negative stereotypes about Americans by representing the humanity and kindness that our nation's people are truly capable of. Just as the House of Representatives represent and speak for the best interests of their district while they are in the House, when we travel as REACH ambassadors we take pride in exemplifying and representing the best of our country and program. Being honored at the Capitol was an enjoyable experience for our travel group as well as an important reminder for us to continue to embody the REACH values of humility, empathy, and respect especially as we become role models for the many young REACH ambassadors that have recently joined the program!"
- REACH Ambassador Kaitlyn Brunworth
"This Tuesday, the REACH ambassadors from the trip to Africa were invited to the state Capitol. Waiting in the back parking lot, it was apparent that little had changed about the group. As we swapped stories with each other, it felt more like we were back in Durban at the kitchen table waiting for dinner than waiting to be honored at the Capitol. We were just a group of friends who wanted to make a difference.
This building is a place where change happens. Despite little or large impacts that are passed through each bill, the legislators in Colorado affect our everyday lives. While we were sitting in on the House of Representatives, legislators debated controversial topics such as solar energy and it’s effects on farmland. These debates in legislative hands can help to bring about change—exactly the reason why were at the Capitol.
Even though we weren’t there to debate the negatives of solar energy on farmers, it made me realize how similar we were to these leaders.
Meeting with various legislators gave me some insight into their missions. They want to change lives. For years I’ve considered becoming a lawyer and later a politician. This day set in stone my aspirations.
Legislators thanked us for our work in Africa and I realized that maybe someday I could be next. That I could be the next person sitting in that desk, arguing for change in the country just as I had done in Durban.
The REACH program has become much more than just soccer. It defines me. It stands for the person that I’ve become. I want to make a mark on the world and be the one that our country looks to when the tides are turning, when the final page is in sight, when times seem tough.
If we can change someone’s life through soccer, imagine the things that we could do for change. Whether it’s a group of teenage friends to a group of legislators, we can all make a difference on someone’s life.
All that’s needed is a desire for change."
REACH Ambassador Demri Scott
02.04.13 - “I remember it so well – one morning we made about 700 sandwiches for the orphan children from Bottlebrush, and when we came into the dining area to serve them, the children spontaneously started singing and dancing all over the room to show their appreciation. The children were such free spirits and beautiful. The trip really left an impression on me….”
This is one of 17 year old Hunter Rooney’s memories, along with many others, from her two-week trip to Africa with the Colorado Rush Soccer Club. Led by Donna Pettigrew, the REACH (Rush Equipment Assisting Children) program took a service trip last November. A select group of REACH volunteers (young ambassadors with more than 100 hours of service) went to a rural impoverished community called Bottlebrush outside of Durbin, South Africa. The trip’s goal was to personally deliver the used soccer equipment, teach soccer fundamentals, start a mini-league, inspire soccer as a great activity (for girls too), and help establish ongoing soccer play for the children and orphans of a special community struggling with serious health issues and poverty.
The REACH program started in 2002. Two years ago, Hunter Rooney started volunteering once a month at the Colorado Rush offices to sort and pack boxes of used soccer gear to send to a variety of locations - mostly in Africa. Throughout the year, the used soccer equipment was collected from Rush families and the local community. Legend has it that Donna Pettigrew was the brains and momentum behind REACH. Her serendipitous meeting in Colorado with a Pastor from South Africa led to the program’s South Africa connection.
After a long journey with luggage over-stuffed with gear and balls, Hunter, and the group from Colorado, got to South Africa and stayed with the Pastor and his family from November 17 – 27. Shortly after arrival, the group started their first training sessions. There were about 25 children, most of them under 8 years old. By the time the group had their last training session, and the final tournament, there were 1200 children that showed up to participate; all ages and all abilities were represented. Hunter said, “Although it was a daunting challenge to coordinate all those children, organized chaos really, it was so exciting seeing all of the children playing soccer and knowing we were making a difference in the short time we were there.” Word had spread far and wide about the Rush group, and no one in the area was going to miss the opportunity to participate in the tournament. Ross Fowler, a Director of Coaching at Rush, helped train local young men as coaches, and the others worked on teaching skills and drills and coordinating the large group of soccer-playing children.
One added bonus the REACH group was able to provide was a basic medical clinic. It was set up to take care of minor health issues like cuts, burns, and bruises. The clinic was led by Gretchen Brunworth, a doctor and one of the parent chaperones.
Upon reflection, two things surprised Hunter. “It was remarkable how the older orphan children cared for the younger children, being surrogate parents and caregivers; they all were taking care of each other in the midst of what we would consider difficult circumstances. Also, I was taken aback by how often children just wanted to hug me and hold my hand. Many times the smaller children would take my hand and use it to caress their face as a form of friendship and warmth. I’ll never forget this. It was really hard to leave them.”
NOTE: Youth ambassadors in the REACH program in November 2012 were: Hunter Rooney, Taylor Dugdale, Jamie Brunworth, Kaitlyn Brunworth, Connor Georgopolus , Ryan Blarr, Demri Scott, Aislinn Reardon, Jenna Hartley, Stephanie Deines , Amy Gargala , Brianne Reardon; Parent Chaperones were: Barbara and John Scott, Gretchen Brunworth; and Rush employees were: Donna Pettigrew, and Ross Fowler.
Hunter Rooney is on the U17 Rush Nike ECNL team and is a senior at Mullin High School; she has committed to play soccer at the University of Richmond next year.
Oct. 29, 2012 - REACH is going to South Africa!
Written by REACH Ambassador Kaitlyn Brunworth
07.11.12 - R.E.A.C.H work days are basically where the ambassadors get together to sort and pack all of the soccer equipment. Colorado is currently the location where all equipment is sent. All of the other clubs around the US send us the soccer gear that they collect to be sorted and then eventually shipped out. These workdays are very important because this is where the soccer gear is. This is the place and time where us as ambassadors sort uniforms and cleats to make up a team roster. If it wasn’t for these workdays, the soccer equipment we collect wouldn’t make it to the third world countries that we send them to.
Personally, I do this because it brings joy to kids around the world. Its amazing to have the feeling and to know that we are making a difference one uniform at a time. A lot of these kids come from war torn homes and being able to receive a gift like this not only brings them joy and happiness, but also hope and that is all I could ever ask for.
Later this year, a group of ambassadors have been given the opportunity to go to South Africa. We will be personally delivering soccer equipment to kids and will be putting on a tournament for and orphanage. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity and I am so thankful that I will be participating in this. I want to go because I want to personally give a child soccer gear and then see a bright smiling face. I want to be able to make them happy and bring them hope.
R.E.A.C.H. Update - Demri Scott earned over 100 hours of community service last year helping with the R.E.A.C.H. Africa Mission. Demri took some time to write about why she participates in R.E.A.C.H. Click here to read Demri's thoughts.
Demri Scott approached her Rock Canyon High School team and they donated their full home and away uniforms to REACH. Great job Demri!
From Hope to Peace: Operation Iraq II...we REACHED our goal!!
78 Rush team Ambassadors, ages 5 to 17, made a commitment to our military contacts in Iraq to collect 20,000 soccer balls, shoes and uniforms to send to the Iraq children. From September 2006 to May 2007, with the help of our sister Rush clubs--Virginia Rush, Texas Rush, Pikes Peak Rush, Michigan Rush, Hawaii Rush, Alaska Rush and New Mexico Rush--these kids tirelessly gathered up the equipment to meet our ambitious goal. With the gear collected, Sky Link Air Service completed the mission by flying the donations over to Iraq in August 2007. All that remains is for the military to distribute the soccer gear to the Iraq children, which will take place in a few weeks.
"These Ambassador's are incredible and went beyond the call of duty," says Donna Pettigrew, Public Relations Manager for Colorado Rush.
Check this space for updates to this and other R.E.A.C.H. program activities.
> Denver News4 article & video on the R.E.A.C.H. Program (02.26.07)