PARKVILLE, Mo. – A teen in Parkville is making a difference one piece of soccer gear at a time, and it’s gotten the attention of the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team.
Lily Sowle is one of two teens in the metro to be named a finalist in the organization’s SheBelieves Hero Contest.
The fourth annual contest is a nationwide search that looks to find young people who are leaders in their community and working to make a difference.
“It just makes me really happy. If I didn’t have soccer, I don’t know what I’d do,” Sowle said. “It just makes me really happy.”
The 15-year-old has played soccer since she was 3. In 2017, one of her mentors, who grew up in Haiti, told Lily about how kids there play soccer barefoot and use wads of plastic bags as a ball.
“I thought about all the equipment I had in my garage, and I thought I could make a difference because [when you think of] everyone in the Kansas City area who play, that’s a lot of gear that’s being used and that could really change someone’s life,” she said.
So Sowle founded Lily’s League, a charity that collects new and gently used soccer gear around town. Donation sites are listed on her website, and she bring bins to tournaments and sports venues, too.
“I’ll collect them at the end of the week and there will be equipment in them, and I bring them back to my house and ship it out,” she said.
The ninth-grader has shipped more than 2,500 items to kids in Haiti and Little Haiti in Miami, Florida, since starting the nonprofit.
Lily’s charity is what got the attention of the selection committee for the SheBelieves Hero Contest.
If she wins, she’ll get a trip for two to New Jersey to watch the Women’s National Team take on Spain. The winner will also be invited to training, honored on-field during match day and receive U.S. Soccer gear, according to the contest rules.
“I’m mostly doing this for the kids. I’m not doing this for myself, but I’d love to be the winner and meet the National Team players,” Sowle said.
“The one thing, as a parent, you try to do for you kids is try and teach them the way," her father, Ted Sowle, added. "And when they start to exhibit signs of giving back and caring enough for others, you know that you’ve done something special."
The 15-year-old said taking home the prize isn’t as important as bringing awareness to her charity so she can continue to help kids who aren’t as fortunate.
“I would be grateful even if I don’t win,” she said.
Semahj Ware is also a finalist in the contest. FOX4 shared the 14-year-old's story on Tuesday.
The winner of the contest will be announced on Monday, Feb. 24. You can cast your vote by clicking here.