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11-year-old Yukoner's bags stuffed with soccer balls for Kenya trip

Nicholas Connell, 11, of Whitehorse collected dozens of soccer balls to bring with him on a recent trip to Kenya.

Nicholas Connell collected dozens of balls to bring with him on a trip to Kenya

11-year-old Yukoner Nicholas Connell with his friend Timmy, in Kenya. Connell collected dozens of soccer balls to give away on a recent trip to Kenya with his mom. (Submitted by Maura Sullivan)

When Maura Sullivan and her son packed for their recent trip to Kenya, they didn't have a lot of room to pack clothes and gear.

"We filled three-and-a-half big duffel bags full of soccer balls, and we only had two bags each. So basically all of our bags were filled with soccer balls," Sullivan said.

The balls were the idea of fellow Yukoner John Carson, who works with a volunteer centre in Kenya. When Sullivan was planning to visit the centre, she asked if her 11-year-old son Nicholas Connell could come along.

"So John said, 'Yeah sure, that would be great to have Nicholas, and why doesn't he bring soccer balls with him?'"

Connell got a kick out that idea, and quickly got things rolling.

"I was really excited to have a project," he said.

"On the weekends I would go running around the neighborhood asking, 'do you have an extra soccer ball that you could give to me?'"

He collected donations from Sport Yukon and other local sports organizations, and Canadian Tire gave him a discount to buy some more balls.

"And then lots of my friends heard I was doing this project, and gave me balls and money."

'I was really excited to have a project,' said Connell. (Submitted by Maura Sullivan)

Connell and Sullivan packed all the deflated balls in their bags and brought along a pump. Once they got to the Rift Valley Resource Centre in Eldoret, Kenya, it was clear the equipment would be well-used by local kids.

"They were very excited. They really appreciated it," Connell said.

"They were all asking for one right from the beginning. So it was nice."

Sullivan said it was a great trip all around — not just for Nicholas and his new soccer-playing friends in Kenya, but for her as well, to see the work Carson is doing. 

"For me, it was just important to be inspired to do good things, and you never know where that's going or how that's going to spread," she said. 

A game gets underway in Kenya. (Submitted by Maura Sullivan)

With files from Christine Genier

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