ORINDA -- Blake Sharp is only 13, but the Easy Bay Eclipse Soccer Club player can kick a soccer ball all the way to Kenya.
With the help of teammates, her coaches and their families, the young Orinda resident has already blasted 50 indestructible, permanently-inflated One World Futbols on their way to disadvantaged communities on the other side of the globe.
This holiday season, she hopes to boost the numbers, with non-Eclipse givers joining America's 26 Random Acts of Kindness movement in the wake of the Newtown, Conn. tragedy and participating in Eclipse's year-end fundraiser.
The One World Futbol Project started with a ball of trash, held together by rope.
Berkeley's Tim Jahnigen, an inventor and musician, saw a 2006 news clip film of kids in Nairobi playing "trash ball" soccer on a mostly dirt-and-rock field. Learning that even traditional soccer balls -- often stitched together by underage, underpaid workers in developing countries -- deflated or ripped in these roughshod, improvised conditions, he set out to develop an everlasting ball.
With the help of the famous musician Sting, a cross-linked closed-cell foam ball was developed. Made out of materials similar to Crocs shoes, One World Futbols never need inflating and are flexible enough to accommodate both punctures and extreme climate changes caused by fluctuating temperatures and varying altitudes. The project and ball are named after Sting's "One World (Not Three)" song.
As the youth community service coordinator for Eclipse's local Lamorinda chapter, young Blake heard about the One World Futbol Project from her mother Diane.
"I think one of the coolest things is that the soccer balls don't deflate and can't get punctured," Blake said in an email interview. "People have been sending regular balls (to developing countries) and landfills are filled with (them)."
The One World Futbol Project website reports that in Africa alone, 20 million torn, punctured or squashed balls go to landfills each year.
Eclipse director and coach Shane Carney says he's wanted his club to be involved with One World Futbol for a while and calls it "a fantastic idea."
He says the ball lives up to its billing.
"I've played with the ball on multiple occasions and tried to destroy it -- I mean, that is my natural reaction to anything that is deemed indestructible," he jokes.
Although she hasn't repeated her coach's attempts to demolish a One World ball, Blake Sharp has played with it and says the ball is no different in weight and size from a regular soccer ball. Even the little octagons integrated into the molded, one-piece surface are similar, she notes, happily.
The Service Lesson
As a member of Eclipse's U14 team, Blake has learned to evaluate people's character by measuring their ability to play by the rules of the game.
"Our team has played teams that can play quality soccer," she says, "but I have watched teams try to hurt my teammates and me. When I play, I want to win, (but) not at all costs."
Carney says Blake is a born leader who has blossomed on and off the field.
"She is a natural athlete, always vocal in supporting her teammates and involved in community service and charity efforts."
Blake acknowledges one big part of working effectively on a team is "not always getting my way," but she's flipping that premise upside down and insisting on "her way" for the fundraiser.
She wants the club's 420 members to each buy a ball and her tone suggests the 26 " hoped for" outside contributors might be a bare minimum.
Admitting the end-of-year announcement is "bad timing," she's barreling ahead, photoshopping fliers, updating the website, contacting the press, extending the deadline and planning a splashy shout out at the club's season-ending party.
With a $25 click on the "add to cart" button on the Eclipse website, a ball is shipped directly to children in Kenya and a $5 donation goes to the local club. A "buy one get one" option, for kids who want a Futbol for themselves, is being added. To learn more about the fundraiser and get started, visit http://www.oneworldfutbol.com/