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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 22 August 2015
SPORT 30 THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 22 AUGUST 2015 DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM Carry a Legend bag and lighten the burden on the homeless Kingston City player urges football community to get on board GEORGE STOGIANNOU High-profile sportspeople often lend their celebrity status to worthy humanitarian causes. But one little known local footballer has gotten together with friends to devise and start up a humanitarian project which he hopes will grow with the help of the Victorian football community. Twenty-one-year-old Kingston City footballer Jamie De Smit and his friends have come up with a great idea to help those less fortunate. The Deakin University sports science and business student is the co-founder of a new crowdfunded social enterprise, the Legend Project, the profits of which will be used to help Melbourne's homeless. Following in the footsteps of the very successful social enterprise Thankyou Water, the Legend Project aims to get sports people to buy a lightweight drawstring bag which can be used to carry boots to training, or keys and wallet when going to the gym or even books when going to uni. The proceeds from the sale of the bag, which costs $20, then go towards stocking another bag with water, food and basic hygiene products, which is then donated to a homeless person. Listening to De Smit talk, it soon becomes apparent that this young athlete is passionate about humanitarian causes and helping people less fortunate. "Obviously Melbourne is one of the most liveable cities in the world, yet there are hundreds of homeless people every night. That kind of idea doesn't really sit well with me and the group that started this." He recounts that before the Legends project started, he visited the streets of Dandenong with co-founder Anna Frank and they met about 10 people living on the street over a couple of weeks. "We basically just went around, bought them a cup of coffee, sat down, had a chat and just kind of connected with them and asked them questions. It was a bit confronting, because obviously the normal thing is to walk past or maybe give a dollar or two. We were like, we want to do something different, actually help these people. So we sat with them, had a coffee with them, talked and said, 'how can we help, what can we do?'. “A lot of them honestly just said, 'you just sitting down and having a chat with us is awesome ... gives us kind of hope.' And there's the practical things. They always need food, water and hygiene products. They often said 'we'd love to go for job interviews, help ourselves, but we can't dress up, because we can't afford to get deodorant, have a shave’, that sort of thing. We told them this idea of the bags, and they said that would be fantastic, just a little kind of gift containing basic necessities." That positive response from people on the street helped convinced De Smit and his co-founders that the bag idea could work and actually help people. De Smit says that for this to be a successful enterprise, "I think everyone needs to kind of get behind it. That's the idea of a social enterprise. It's not just a couple of people pushing for this thing to happen. Like the Thankyou Water project, when they launched and people got the idea, they got excited about it and got involved. That's what we're hoping. We know it can work in the sports community, because it's a very simple thing. It's like $20. Most people in the premier league make a couple of hundred a week and everyone can afford $20. I suppose the main thing is for people to just do something. They don't have to buy a bag. If they do that's awesome. If not they can like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, share our posts. People don't have to spend any money if they don't want to. For this to work and really actually impact people's lives, we're just asking that people do something simple. Tell their friends, tell their clubs." DeSmit's current club Kingston City are certainly keen to come on board, having ordered 20 bags. The young midfielder says his teammates at Kingston have been very encouraging. Many have told him: "That's a great idea. I'll buy a bag for sure." He says he didn't even have to ask the club to get involved. "They found out what I was doing and put an ad on their website and Facebook page." Some people's first reaction is one of surprise but the response is generally very supportive. "I think it's a bit fun- ny. Sports people sometimes have the reputation of being focused on building a career, save a heap of money, buy a nice car, buy a nice house. Nothing wrong with those things, but this stuff's important as well. It's awesome that they are supporting this. I've had a number of other clubs which have said they'll post a thing about it and buy bags … I know a couple of guys from Hume City, Oakleigh, White Eagles, all the other clubs I've been at before. They've been like, 'yeah we'll buy a bag'. The cool thing about that is that if one person from each team has a bag, people might ask, oh, what's that all about?'. And when they explain the deal, others might want to get involved as well." De Smit believes "if thousands of people in Victorian football do something simple, tell their friends about it, buy a bag, like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, then it's kind of using the power of people, the community to make the biggest impact we can." For people wanting to get involved, they can: - like #LegendProject on Facebook and Twitter - buy a Legend bag ($20) - tell teammates, coaches and clubs about it. For more information, go to www.legendproject.org Sydney Olympic laces up for homeless youth Olympic become first club to participate in campaign GEORGE STOGIANNOU Last weekend 128 young Sydney Olympic footballers donned blue boot laces for their home matches in support of the #laceitup campaign to raise both aware- ness of youth homelessness and funds for Father Chris Riley's Youth Off the Streets program. Sydney Olympic FC bought the blue laces and raised about $1,000 for the program, becoming the first football club to get on board with the campaign. Olympic's general manager Anthony Nicolaou explained: "Nobody in the NPL, A-League, in divisions underneath are involved. We're the first football team to take up this campaign. We wanted to do it because we've been around for a while (since 1957). We wanted to start giving back to the communi- ty. We consider ourselves as more community based than a lot of other teams, whether it's NRL, AFL or whatever, because a lot of our players come from all around the metropolitan area." Nicolaou explained that the club had been looking for a charity to be part of and decided that the #laceitup campaign would be a good fit with the club, because "the blue that we have (in our strip) is the same colour as the blue in the Lace It Up campaign." Nicolaou said the players all reacted positively to wearing the laces last weekend. "They all loved it. They thought it was a good gesture from the club. They all got into it. Not one player said I can't wear those." According to the Everyday Hero website, tying up the laces is a symbolic gesture aimed at raising awareness of thousands of young homeless people forced to sleep with their shoes on at night to keep warm and be ready to run from harm. Nicolaou says Sydney Olympic would like to be involved with the charity on an ongoing basis and increase its participation when it occurs again next year.
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