On the morning of May 8, predicted storms and high winds in the Ithaca area threatened to put the kibosh on a youth soccer clinic that also served as a fundraiser for earthquake victims in Haiti.
But the only object that got blown away was the event’s co-organizer — in a figurative sense — based on how well everything turned out.
Rita Demarest noted that rainstorms seemingly affected every area of Tompkins County around Ithaca High School during the clinic, but never descended upon the school’s soccer fields. In fact, she said the skies waited until 4 p.m. to open up, which was almost precisely when a post-clinic barbecue and silent auction concluded.
Community support also figured prominently into the clinic’s success, beginning with the many instructors from area college programs who were on hand that day. Numerous cash donations, including many that arrived right under the wire, enabled the event to raise more than $7,400, according to Demarest.
"The people here in the community have pulled together like you would not believe," she remarked.
Another soccer event — a youth tournament on Saturday, July 17 — is now in the works to support the Haiti cause. It will take place on approximately a dozen local fields and is open to boys’ and girls’ teams ages 8-18 throughout the northeastern United States. To register for the tournament, or for further information, visit www.reachoutgoalsforhaiti.org or call Demarest at 607-592-3710 or Amelia Massi at 607-280-7892. Checks may sent to All Saints Parish, 347 Ridge Road, Lansing, NY 14882, with "Reachout Haiti" designated in the memo section.
Proceeds from the clinic and tournament will help rebuild St. Vincent’s Center for Handicapped Children in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, which was severely damaged by a massive earthquake on Jan. 12. This school and medical clinic is the only center of its kind in the country to handle children with special needs and special surgeries for eyes, ears and orthopedics.
Demarest and Massi, members of Immaculate Conception Parish in Ithaca, co-organized the May 8 camp and are doing likewise for the July 17 tournament. This isn’t the first instance of Demarest and Massi spearheading a big project to help those in need. In 2005, as coordinators of Project Reachout2000, they oversaw the collection and delivery of a large truckload of donated items for victims of Hurricane Katrina.
Project Reachout2000, an ecumenical group, began in 1998. The group also has performed relief projects to benefit homeless children in Ecuador; children in a leper colony founded by Mother Teresa; young victims of war in Nigeria; hurricane-stricken families in the Dominican Republic; and Tompkins County-area youths who received medical kits.
Demarest said she and Massi don’t plan their efforts far in advance, but instead respond to crises in the world as they arise such as the unplanned devastation in Haiti. Demarest added that the common thread in all their projects is enforcing the value of children helping children, and pointing out that all youths are basically the same even if their circumstances are different.
Creating this awareness "is imperative if we are to have a future generation of caring, loving and giving people," Demarest stated.