Give it UP for Connor Warwick of Bensalem.
Nominated by Winful Ali, his elementary school soccer coach.
The Temple University freshman collects cleats and sneakers and ships them to aspiring soccer players in Ghana who can’t afford the appropriate footwear to play the most popular sport in the West African country.
Warwick, 18, began stockpiling shoes as a seventh grader in 2012. The effort grew into a yearly campaign, “Sneaks and Cleats for Ghana," which he estimates has amassed several thousand pairs of shoes over the past seven years.
“He’s energetic, he’s helpful, and he reaches out," said Ali, 52, a Ghana native who lives in Bensalem . “And he’s really making an impact on the children."
Warwick was inspired by Ali and his son, Elferdi. The kids played together on St. Ephrem School’s soccer team, and Ali was an assistant coach.
Ali’s family visits Ghana once a year. On those visits, Elferdi played soccer with kids there, and noticed he was the only one wearing cleats. After Ali explained why, Elferdi suggested asking his Ephrem teammates for their old cleats and sneakers. And when they returned to Ghana, Ali’s family would donate the shoes to underfunded soccer programs.
Warwick donated his old shoes and then went searching for more. He stashed donation bins in neighboring schools and stapled posters to community boards. In his first year he collected a few dozen shoes to send back with his coach.
Over the years, and as the piles rose, Warwick found charity organizations and soccer clubs and school programs in Ghana, traded emails with their representatives, and ironed out the logistics. He coordinates the shipments to coincide with Ali’s annual visit home. Ali then stops at the destinations to ensure the shipments’ safe arrival, and he’ll routinely record videos of the kids in their new footwear and send them to Warwick.
"Some of the kids were amazed because they never had shoes before,” Warwick said.
At St. Joseph’s Preparatory School, where Warwick rowed crew and played soccer, he was awarded the Joseph M. Corr Men for Others Award. It is presented to a “Prep” junior and student-athlete who “demonstrates high concern and respect for teammates and coaches, leadership, compassion, charity, and humble service.” The award included $500, which he used toward shoe-shipping costs. After learning about how Warwick spent the money, the school donated another $500 to help cover the entire cost of that year’s shipment.
Now at Temple, Warwick is studying business.
“I’m still figuring it out,” he said. “But I do like working with people, though. After all of this, I learned that.”