It started as a simple Instagram message from UAlbany field hockey alumni Frederike Helmke. “Freddy” sent me a link to a video and said, "if anyone can help it’s you and your club". So, I showed the video to my husband, Phil, who helps run the club and is an Atlanta 1996 Olympian.
Something about the story that was created by the founders of the Sierra Leone Hockey Trust Dominique Paul and Cornelius Heidmann made us want to be of action and help. The video they created is at times a little hard to watch with images of how the war in Sierra Leone from 1991 to 2001 took a toll on the lives and people living there. However, as the video continues both Dominique and Cornelius show how a group of people are creating opportunity for hundreds of kids and adults learn our amazing sport. The equipment they are working with however has been grinded down so much so that it makes it almost impossible to play with. Dominique and Cornelius set out to collect 500 sticks and other equipment from their home country Germany to ship to Sierra Leone. They shared their story and that is the reason we get to tell this story today.
We posted on our Twitter and club Instagram accounts asking our players to step up and help out with this service project. We got an overwhelming response from our sophomores, junior and seniors. If players couldn’t serve on the committee they stepped up and said they would donate used or even new equipment. With their dedication and commitment, we are able to set up drop off locations with the help of our local Waste and Recycling business Twin Bridges. They donated bins for us to use for drop off locations. Our goal was to collect between 40 to 60 sticks. Once the word got out, equipment including sticks, turfs, bags and goalkeeper gear starting rolling in. Pine Plains and Round Out Valley High Schools drove equipment 2 hours up the Thruway (I-87) to donate! A man by the name of Jim M. from Philadelphia shipped us 10 sticks that his wife and daughter had used, 10 new grips and $100.00 to cover the shipping cost to Sierra Leone! As pictures and stories of our efforts circulated on social media the most amazing thing happened. Longstreth Sporting Goods contacted us and asked how they could help. We responded asking if they could possibly donate between 8 to 20 sticks (demos or new). They sent 80 field hockey sticks! When we opened the boxes, we could not believe it! HFS Adidas sent another 22 sticks and a local screen-printing company Wicked Smart Apparel of Menands, N.Y. donated 200 t-shirts for the kids and players of Sierra Leone. Between the collections from local high schools, business and other donors from around the east coast so far, the girls have collected over 300 sticks, 20 pairs of turfs, 30 stick bags and lots of other apparel.
We had a Google Meet with the girls on the committee and the creators of the Sierra Leone Trust: Dominque and Cornelius. It was so fun to be a part of. We shared stories of mutual friends Christopher Ruhr of the German National Team and Andre Henning a premier coach in the German Club system and Assistant German Women’s National Coach for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. Both Chris and Andre coached the girls at ADK camp in 2019. The girls got to ask questions about what motivated the founders of this project to want to help Sierra Leone. They got to gain a true appreciation for all we have in the United States and how lucky we are to get to play with top quality equipment on safe and smooth artificial turf surfaces.
We as a club will continue to collect and ship equipment so if anyone has quality used equipment please feel free to contact us at our club email address email@example.com. If you want to support the efforts of the ADK Sierra Leone Hockey Equipment Drive, the girls have set up a Go Fund Me Page to help cover the cost of shipping.
Thank you to our amazing community for always wanting to help grow the game of field hockey and a special thanks to everyone for their support. We are overwhelmed by the amount of equipment collected and can’t wait to ship it all this month to Sierra Leone.