Kyle Weiss of Danville was only 13 when he co-founded a non-profit organization with his big brother tasked with building soccer fields in third world countries.
Six years later, Weiss, now 19, is being recognized globally for his work. He is one of six recipients of the World of Children Award. The global organization honors individuals for their work to improve children’s lives. He is one of two to be given the Youth Award.
When Weiss was 13, he teamed up with his 15-year-old brother with a mission at first to donate some soccer equipment to countries abroad. The two had traveled to Germany to watch the World Cup and saw how soccer brings children together on the field and helps them learn social skills and life lessons.
The brothers opted to go beyond just donating equipment to building fields, specifically in countries touched by some sort of conflict or major trauma.
“We have so much,” Weiss said. “I’ve always had the best soccer fields, the best equipment, the best schools. I am lucky to be doing what I am doing.”
What made the pair of teens think they could build fields a world away?
“It just kind of sounded like a challenge,” Weiss said. “No biggie. Back then, that’s how we thought.”
So far, FUNDaFIELD has built soccer fields in Kenya, Uganda, and South Africa. The organization, which is completely run by youth, is now working on plans to build fields in Swaziland, The Democratic Republic of the Congo, Pader in Northern Uganda and Haiti.
Weiss said the hope is that soccer will serve as a sort of therapy for children who have seen so much devastation. FUNDaFIELD now construct fields at schools and requires that those who want to play be enrolled as a way to stress education.
The nonprofit tries to get the local village to participate in the project, he said, adding that in Kenya, vocational students built the goals for the field.
As a result of his involvement in the organization, Weiss has seen the world and had some one-of-a-kind experiences. After one tournament in Uganda, he was responsible for scoring the winning team a goal, he said.
The 36 youth that are a part of the organization do two fundraisers a year to pay for the fields. This past summer, the nonprofit held its first celebrity soccer tournament called chancetoplay2012, and plans to make this an annual affair, he said.
Weiss will travel to New York Oct. 25 to receive the award. The honor includes a cash grant of up to $75,000 for the honorees programs.
“As the World of Children Award celebrates its 15th anniversary this year, we are deeply inspired by the remarkable contributions our honorees have made to changing the trajectory of children’s lives for the better,” said Harry Leibowitz, World of Children Award co-founder and co-chairman.
Recipients must go through an extensive vetting process that includes a background check by a private investigator.
“It's an honor to shine a light on the mighty, mighty efforts of these brave and innovative changemakers,” said actress Stephanie March, celebrity ambassador for the World of Children Award. “I am inspired beyond words.”
Since World of Children was founded in 1998, the World of Children Award has provided $5 million in cash grants and program support to honorees who run organizations serving more than 140 countries.
Weiss said he is grateful to be among the recipients.
“I was shocked because I totally didn’t expect it,” he said of the award. “It was such an honor. It is crazy because there are lots of great organizations out there. I hope to continue to inspire.”