Among the 14 local students who participated Sunday in La Cañada Unified School District's TEDx event, where students shared their hopes, dreams and ideas with the community, one speaker caught the attention of the audience — 10-year-old Ray Wipfli.
The Paradise Canyon Elementary School fifth-grader explained in his talk, "The Game of Life," how a recent trip to Africa helped him realize the power that global sports, like soccer, have to unite people from different backgrounds and cultures.
He shared highlights from his trip to Uganda, which he took in February with mom Heather, associate director of USC's Institute for Global Health. While there, he visited a local school and participated in a soccer game played by children in the rural area of Mpigi.
"They were very different from you or me," he said Sunday. "[But] when we played together, we all had a good time because we all worked toward a shared goal."
Before the trip, Wipfli, who plays soccer through the Los Angeles Premier Football Club, got his team to donate balls and air pumps and gently used uniforms and shoes. With the help of teacher Rob Hajek, he got fellow students to write letters to the children, which he personally delivered.
Now that he's returned, Wipfli — who turns 11 today — has big dreams about how he can help his new friends even more.
He's created a campaign through the crowd-funding website www.gofundme.com, where people can make contributions toward soccer equipment and training, nutritious meals, teachers and badly needed renovations at local schools.
His personal goal is $20,000. On Sunday, he invited La Cañada to join him in his mission.
"Just think, if everyone in La Cañada donated just $1, we could set up a two-week soccer camp that would provide healthy meals, education and, of course, soccer training," he told the TEDx audience. "Together we can win in the game of life."
To learn more, or to make a donation, visit www.gofundme.com/78p4n0.