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Upward program raises money for OCC

The three top fundraising participants in the Upward Cares Operation Christmas Child fundraising effort to purchase soccer balls for children all around the world were Mallorie Dean, Madi Harstine and Emily Rothacher. More than 500 youth in the Upward program helped raise $6,700 for the service project.

Submitted

To us, it’s garbage wrapped in cloth and tied together with string. To the children living in third-world destitution, it is a soccer ball.
 
Chances are good that the rag-like soccer balls are handmade by a band of boys and girls eager to find a way to play their favorite sport. It might last for a week or two of vigorous play before a new garbage ball is found and bound together.
 
While Americans live in a disposable world, one can only imagine the determination and enthusiasm it must take to justify the time and effort it took to make even one of these rag balls.
 
Thanks to a huge effort and a massive showing of love and compassion, the youth members of Upward Basketball and Cheerleading of Tuscarawas County will make sure a whole lot of youngsters won’t be stuck using a rag ball this Christmas.
 
Each year the organization, part of the national program Upward Sports, tries to drive home the importance of community service and reaching out to those in need as they focus on not only teaching the games of basketball, soccer and cheerleading, but also work to promote community service. That branch of the organization is called Upward Cares.
 
For the past three years, the local Upward Cares program has partnered with Operation Christmas Child, a faith-based worldwide organization that encourages individuals and organizations to create shoe boxes filled with Christmas presents that will be sent out globally to children around the world who can celebrate Christmas in an exciting way as they receive the gifts of people whom they will probably never meet.
 
Along with the shoe boxes filled with presents like toys, hygiene products and school items, OCC sends Christian literature to introduce youngsters to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
 
That was something that touched the hearts of everyone in the Upward Cares program.
 
According to Upward Cares coordinator Christy Bloom, teaching kids the value of service to others is a big part of Upward Sports, and teaming up with Operation Christmas Child was a perfect fit.
 
“It is so important for our children to learn the value of serving others,” Bloom said. “We used the tagline, ‘Kids helping kids.’ Every year we show the kids and their families a video from Operation Christmas Child of these kids in third-world countries receiving their boxes. Our kids here are so blessed with so much, and it can be tough to fathom what these children in poor countries are going through. The video is a real eye-opener as to their daily lives and their struggles.”
 
The 2017 Upward Basketball and Cheerleading season concluded with a monstrous effort to help children in need through the OCC program. The group’s young basketball players and cheerleaders raised a total $6,700 for soccer balls by participating in a shoot-a-thon.
 
“I am imagining a little boy or girl tearing open a shoe box to find a real American soccer ball,” Upward commissioner Lloyd MacAdam said. “I would imagine he would be the envy of all his friends and neighbors. I also imagine that it would give him that thrill we seek each Christmas, that thrill of opening an exciting gift, something shiny and new. For many of these children who live in extreme poverty, it's often the first gift that they can actually call their own.”
 
This year’s Upward Basketball season was sponsored by New Philadelphia Nazarene Church, NewPointe Community Church in Dover and New Philadelphia First United Methodist Church. The mission of Upward Sports is to introduce children to Jesus Christ by creating opportunities to serve through sports.
 
The fundraiser saw each Upward member get sponsors, who gave them either a flat-fee donation or a per-basket amount. The members then took a night of practice to shoot baskets. The combined effort of the kids raised $6,700, which purchased 950 soccer balls and air pumps.
 
Upward Cares then distributed the soccer balls and pumps to a dozen area churches in Tuscarawas and Holmes counties that make the most shoe boxes for OCC.
 
Bloom said while the children receiving the shoe boxes are blessed beyond belief, the blessings here at home also are nice.
 
“There is ministry happening in our own back yard through this program of serving kids globally because our kids are realizing the value of serving others,” Bloom said.
 
Upward Basketball and Cheerleading serves Tuscarawas and Holmes counties and is currently receiving registration to join. Registration can be done online at www.rregistration.upward.org?UPW5513.
 
Registration evaluation days are Saturday, Nov. 18 from 9-11:30 a.m. and Tuesday, Dec. 5 from 6-8 p.m. at New Philadelphia First Church of Nazarene at 233 Fair Ave. NE in New Philadelphia. Registration deadline is Dec. 8, and fees are $60 on or before Nov. 30 or $70 after.
 
For more information call 330-343-7144 or visit www.npnaz.org.
 

Published: November 13, 2017
New Article ID: 2017171109897