Sara Gilles

Former water polo player, Sara Gilles is calling local teens to a Hoedown for Charity dance to raise money in support of the fledgling Afghan national water polo team. The dance will take place at the Crescenta-Canada YMCA Sunday, 7 p.m. - 10 p.m. (Courtesy of Heidi Gilles)

It’s hard to imagine a country with just 13 swimming pools.

Three years ago, when Jeremy Piasecki, a Marines warrant officer, began to dream of putting together a national water polo team in Afghanistan to boost the moral of the country’s swimmers, that’s all the fledgling team had to work with.

Now, the dream has grown, and the Afghan team has its collective eye on qualifying for the 2016 Olympics in Brazil. But how does a team with access to so few pools adequately train to compete against the world’s best teams?

It does so with a trip to Southern California.

And that’s where a La Cañada teen enters the picture.

Former Crescenta Valley High School water polo player Sara Giles is calling for local teens from La Cañada, La Crescenta and the Verdugo Hills area to come out to a Hoedown for Charity dance at the Crescenta-Cañada Family YMCA on Sunday from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. to raise money for the Afghan team’s room and board. Commercial airline employees have already pledged to provide transportation for 10 athletes to train in California.

Giles gave a special shout out to each of the local high school water polo teams to join in the line dancing —lessons included — and country-themed fun in developing a sport dear to their hearts.

“This is a sport we all love,” Gilles said. “This is something fun we can do and help out a great cause at the same time.”

Training sessions and matches for the Afghans are being coordinated by Bahram Hojreh, a former water polo player at UC Irvine and now club director of Los Al Water Polo in Los Alamitos. With the event’s proceeds, Giles hopes the Afghan team will be brought closer in realizing their tentative mid-Nov. training date.

“I decided to do the event because my mom was a big supporter of the team,” said Giles. “I wanted to do something to help out.

Gilles, who played four years of high school water polo, was graduated in 2010 from Crescenta Valley High School and currently is a sophomore at California Lutheran University.

A fee of $10 will be collected at the door and T-shirts will be sold for $20. The Crescenta-Cañada Family Y is located at 1930 Foothill Blvd., La Cañada Flintridge.