USC sports teams turn points into charitable donations

Published Dec 16, 2013 at 12:23 pm (Updated Dec 16, 2013 at 12:23 pm)

What started as a fundraiser for the Upper St. Clair High School Boys Soccer Booster organization ended up raising enough money that the boys donated $20,000 to Light of Life Rescue Mission.

It all started with the need for an idea for a fundraiser for the boosters, said Rob Mertz, president of the boys’ soccer booster club. He said the team came up with the idea to get pledges for the goals scored during the regular season. All of the nearly 60 boys in the soccer organization were asked to participate.

The team, which won the state championship this year, ended up scoring 93 goals during the regular season, raising $40,000. The team donated half to Light of Life, and the other half will go toward the team’s needs.

“We wanted to do something with an organization on the front lines,” Mertz said.

Light of Life, based on the North Shore, provides meals and services to homeless men, women and children. The center serves nearly 100,000 meals per year, said Light of Life spokesperson Kate Wadsworth.

In addition to the $20,000 donation, about 30 members of the team gathered at the high school on Dec. 14 to pack 500 lunches for the homeless, which were distributed at Light of Life’s center that day.

The boys made and packed the lunches in what had to be close to record time. The 500 lunches consisting of two sandwiches apiece, a granola bar, chips, fruit, water and a pack of gum were made and packed in about 45 minutes.

“It was an opportunity to connect the soccer program with the North Side,” Mertz said.

Partnering with Light of Life was “obviously a win-win situation,” Mertz said.

“It’s been absolutely wonderful,” said the soccer team’s co-captain Robbie Mertz of collecting the money and also making the lunches. “Most kids would tell you it’s too much work, but it’s been fun. We’re a really close team.”

This is the first time the team has done something like this.

“We were surprised at how well it worked out. We are happy to be here,” Robbie Mertz said.

“I think we should continue to do this,” said co-captain Sam Russell. “I think every team should be compelled to do something like this.”

“It was a way to make money and help to donate to charity,” said co-captain Troye Kiernan, who scored 20 of the team’s goals this year.

“This couldn’t have gone any better,” said Rob Mertz. “Now we know how long it takes to bag 500 lunches – about 45 minutes.”

“Thank you for putting charity into your heart,” said Don Foster, chairman of the board of directors for Light of Life.

“This day will bring a memory you will all take with you,” added Craig Schweiger, executive director of Light of Life.

At the end of the morning on Dec. 14, Rob Mertz recognized the three players who collected the most money. Alex Ioli came in third with $1,595, while Dom Caruso came in second with a dollar more than Ioli. Kiernan raised the most at $3,407.

Upper St. Clair High School’s boys’ golf team also raised money for charity this year. The players collected pledges for each birdie scored by the team and netted $8,000 to donate toward Allegheny Health Network’s colorectal cancer program.

Todd Flynn, former coach of the golf team who recently retired, said the idea to donate money came about two years ago after one of the seniors on the team raised money on his own for autism. After he graduated, the team stepped up and took on his cause to raise money and raised $3,400 last year.

Flynn said he urged the golfers to outdo themselves this year and the team more than doubled the money raised. This time, the money is going towards colorectal cancer, because of its close ties to a team member.

“I’m obviously proud as a coach for their behavior on and off the course,” Flynn said. “These are high school kids doing this and not one penny was going toward them.”

Flynn added that he always urged his players to “use golf to learn a bigger picture.”

“It also helped that the kids played as well as they did,” Flynn laughed.

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