CT Nonprofit Shares Love Of Soccer
For many soccer is fun to play or watch. For Stephen Schirra, the sport breaks down language barriers and allows him to have a positive impact on children around the world.
“Whoever gave me that first exposure to the sport, look what it did,” said Schirra.
Shirra is a 25-year-old from Ellington, Connecticut. At a young age, he fell in love with soccer. He played in town leagues, for his high school, and on the club team at The University of Connecticut.
Now, Schirra is traveling the world to spread his passion for soccer to underprivileged children.
Schirra founded his non-profit, Around the Worlds, Around the World, two years ago. He graduated from college in 2014 unsure of the direction he wanted his life to take. Schirra used money he’d saved up over the years to start traveling the world – hoping to find his calling.
He did and it happened because he took his soccer ball with him everywhere he went. It helped him connect with people from other countries – just by kicking around a soccer ball. Schirra began to realize how the sport he enjoys so much can be used to help underserved children.
“It definitely changed my life and molded me into the person I am today,” he said. “So to think you could have been that person for someone else…it’s magical.”
Schirra started reaching out to orphanages all over the world hoping to host soccer clinics to teach kids the basic skills of the game. His first trip was to Lima, Peru where he used $100 to buy 20 soccer balls to give to kids. For weeks, Schirra lived with the children at the orphanage, and realized he was sharing more than just knowledge of the game.
“A lot of the times soccer was almost just the ice breaker, soccer was a way into their lives, but you have to do so much more than that,” he said. “So as soon as I established a decent foundation in teaching soccer in another language, in Spanish, I wanted to take it a step further to learn how to converse with these kids. Just to talk about their aspirations, their plans, what they wanted to be. It’s tough because you walk a thin line because all these kids have such unique stories, but a lot of them its immense struggle. Stuff that we can’t really imagine, stuff that we can’t really fathom.”
Schirra says he’s traveled to 23 countries and touched the lives of more than 3,700 children. In addition to orphanages, he also visits schools, and shelters. He says getting pictures of kids playing with soccer balls he’s donated is the motivation that keeps him going.
Schirra has received support from Major League Soccer and was recently recognized as “A Hero Among Us” at a Celtics’ NBA basketball game in Boston.
The support and donations to Around the Worlds also helped Schirra accomplish another goal. This past year, Schirra established a scholarship in his hometown of Ellington, Connecticut. The scholarship is given to a high school senior who uses their love of sports to help others.
Carling Willis is from Ellington, Connecticut. She is a junior English and Communication major at Western New England University.