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The Dartmouth
May 27, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Volunteers kick soccer balls, AIDS

Students decked out in Teletubby suits and Santa costumes came together for the Lose the Shoes soccer tournament on Saturday, marking the end of a term's worth of fundraising for Grassroots Soccer. Over 300 students, divided into 64 teams, met in Leverone for the five-hour event, which contributed to a $12,000 fundraising total for the organization.

Grassroots Soccer, an international nonprofit organization founded by Tommy Clark DMS '01, along with Methembe Ndlovu '97 and two other students, uses professional soccer players to educate Africans about AIDS/HIV. The organization's Kick AIDS campaign, started in 2005, focuses on spreading knowledge at high school and college campuses through events like Lose the Shoes, a program initiated by Zak Kaufman '08.

"Tommy Clark came to speak at a DCGH [Dartmouth Coalition for Global Health] luncheon, and I thought, 'That is an awesome organization with incredible potential,'" Kaufman said. "Other students wanted to support this organization that is doing awesome work in Africa [and] is part of the Dartmouth community. College students are a great resource that hasn't been tapped into. How can we tap into that? That's when Lose the Shoes came into being."

Lose the Shoes started in Fall 2006, when 150 students played to raise $3,000 total. That following spring, 175 students attended and the total rose to $7,000.

This year, Lose the Shoes coincided with Dartmouth's "National World AIDS Day Conference." Students from the University of Vermont and around New England came to Dartmouth to attend the conference and play in the tournament. Some expressed an interest in starting at tournament at their own schools.

"Elise [Braunschweig '08] and I, along with a guy from Brandeis, have put a lot into outreach, turning Lose the Shoes into an exportable model that can reach thousands of other kids," Kaufman said. This year, schools around the country have raised $30,000 for Grassroots Soccer, according to Kaufman.

Dartmouth's tournament was run by Kaufman, Braunschweig, Harshil Shah '09 and James Cart '10, with the help of a team of over 25 consistent participators.

"[The organizers are] DEH [Dartmouth Ends Hunger] members and students with a common interest that is fighting AIDS and stopping this horrific disease that's occurring, stopping things that are preventable," Shah said. "There is no need for AIDS to be transferred from mother to baby -- things like that can be stopped."

Organizers started planning earlier this term. Co-ed teams of four to five students registered under a name and captain.

"Before Thanksgiving, we had 20 to 25 teams, when we got back 30 to 40 teams, since Tuesday we stopped the bracket at 64 teams," Cart said. The teams were divided up into 16 groups of four, such that every team was guaranteed to play three games. The top team of every bracket then moved onto the championship round to determine the winners.

The event marks the end of an expansive fundraising effort in preparation for the event, added to by the $6,000 gift the program received from the GrabLifeGiveLife contest, sponsored by Dodge.

Corporate sponsors for the event included Margarita's, Boloco, and sandal company Chaco. Students were also asked to offer donations, and were encouraged to get sponsorship in the weeks leading up to the event. Fundraising is still ongoing; the deadline was extended to Dec. 9, accommodating a bake sale by the mentoring organization Link-Up.

The day of the event was full of excitement as students came in costumes varying from Santas to robots to support the cause.

"With any fun event like this, that is just what Dartmouth does " people dress up and are loud and crazy, that's how we do things we're excited about," Cart said. "I think it's a really good way to get people involved."

"This is one of the most fun things I've done at Dartmouth," said Jeff Milloy '10 of Team Haphazard, which won the "Best Spirit" prize. The team wore Teletubby suits and assorted accessories.

Isaiah Berg '11, a member of another team, said, "My excitement is a substitute for my soccer skills."

Final award, raffles, and prizes were given out a the closing ceremony dinner Saturday evening, which featured speakers Dartmouth Medical School professor and Grassroots Soccer Director of the Board Mary Turco and AIDS activist Silas Hagerty, as well as performances by the Subleties, the Cords, Fusion, and the Rockapellas.