Knowing children in Uganda were playing soccer barefoot, and in some instances with only one cleat, was not acceptable to Preston Lee, so he launched a project to remedy the situation. Called Kleats for Kids, Lee’s initiative was inspired by Niwot Elementary School teacher Dale Peterson and the Mwebaza Foundation, an organization that has its roots at NES.
“My dad travels a lot for work,” Lee said, “and on one of his travels he got some pictures of kids without cleats or with just one cleat, and that really moved me to get some cleats and donate them to those kids who don’t have them.”
Lee, a soccer player since the age of three, knew he could make a difference for children thousands of miles away because he had been involved with Mwebaza Foundation which, with help from NES students and parents, has helped students in Africa with building schools and supplying learning materials, food, and hygiene needs. This past summer, Peterson hand delivered 75 pairs of cleats collected by Lee.
Lee began the project last August when he was a fifth-grader at NES. The first step was to create an Instagram account, kleats_for_kids. Next, he got a “good box” to put near the office at NES. He created flyers requesting donated cleats and put them up around the school and then began making announcements to the entire school to get them excited about the cleat drive.
It started out a bit slow, Lee said. A month went by, but the box remained empty. Lee kept making announcements and one day the first pair of donated cleats appeared in the box.
“That was a very happy day,” he said. More and more cleats started showing up, until the box “exploded.”
Peterson’s connection through Mwebaza made it possible to get the cleats to children in Uganda this summer.
“It was absolutely amazing,” Lee said of the photos he got showing the kids in Uganda wearing the cleats he’d collected. “I was so excited about it…it almost made me cry that all my hard work finally got to them.”
“Preston is a shining example of what the Mwebaza Foundation is all about,” Peterson said.” It is our hope to inspire kids to make a positive change in their world, whether here in Colorado or somewhere else in the world. Preston saw a need, and took the initiative. We have no doubt that Preston will continue to do such noble and generous acts in the future, and will inspire others to do so as well.”
Lee, now a sixth-grader at Sunset Middle School, said he’s hoping to collect even more cleats this year and “maybe even double the amount.”
“One of these years I want to go with the cleats over to Mwebaza or any of the other countries I donate to and play soccer with them,” Lee said.
Cleat collection boxes are located at both Niwot Elementary School (8778 Morton Rd, Niwot) and Sunset Middle School (1300 S. Sunset St., Longmont) and anyone may bring donations of gently used cleats. To learn more about Mwebaza Foundation, visit www.Mwebaza.org.