Soccer Balls Headed to Iraq

By Kerri O'Hara

July 22, 2010 Updated Apr 2, 2006 at 3:26 PM EDT

They're a group of first-graders set out to make kids overseas smile.

The Hiawatha soccer team collected these 40 soccer balls for Iraqi children.

"I think soccer is a very good sport for people to play, and since they have nothing to do, I thought they might like it," says first-grader Daniel Raftis.

U.S. Army Combat Medic Justin Donnelly, who graduated from Owego Free Academy, agreed.

He's on a break from his post in Iraq.

Donnelly says Iraqi children light up when the soldiers bring them soccer balls.

"These kids run around with no shoes and nothing to do, and they're the future of Iraq. If we can get them to open up to Americans, not just the troops, it will go a long way in terms of democracy," says Donnelly.

When local businesses heard about the Hiawatha soccer teams mission to collect soccer balls, they stepped in.

Lockheed Martin in Owego donated these 40 brand new balls.

But the Iraqi children aren't just getting soccer balls, they're also getting sneakers.

Lisa da-Cunha Koski bought the sneakers at a Salvation Army.

"I hope that in the long run, when the children are older, they'll remember that some Americans care about Iraqis and not everyone is out to hurt them and destroy their environment," says da-Cunha.

A group of anonymous people have donated money to have both the sneakers and soccer balls sent to Donnelly in Iraq.

Soldier Donnelly graduated in 2004 from Owego Free Academy.

After getting the soccer balls, he spoke to a class at his former high school.

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