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Lifestyle // Good Neighbors
Christina O’Connor

Lanakila Soccer Club

Back, from left: coaches Shelly and Ryan Tanaka, and Wade Balidoy; front: players Brycen and Kailee Tanaka, and Jade Balidoy. Photo courtesy of the Tanaka family

While some kids’ sports teams may seem like an endless barrage of candy bar and wrapping paper fundraisers, the Lanakila Soccer Club is taking a different approach. The club, which is comprised of about 40 players who range in age from 7 to 12, strives to help the community by combining sports with service projects. The year-round club was founded in 2010 by head coach and president Shelly Tanaka and her husband, Ryan, also a coach.

“We are very fortunate with what we have, and I wanted the players to be able to give back to the community,” Shelly Tanaka says, adding that the kids are always enthusiastic about the projects.

In March, the club was out sign-waving alongside HPD to encourage safe driving. The keiki also worked with Lanakila Meals on Wheels to create Christmas cards for the kupuna receiving holiday meals. The club also has worked with Blue Planet for a light bulb exchange, made Easter baskets for other keiki, and procured supplies for homeless families on the Leeward coast. Typically, all three of the club teams (two girls teams and one co-ed team) work together on the service projects.

The club’s next effort is a food and fund drive to benefit Hawaii Foodbank, which will take place Sunday, May 20, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in Pearl City at Waiau District Park, in the lower parking lot. The public is welcome to bring canned food or monetary donations.

“I saw something in the paper that said that the food bank was really low on food, and that they were trying to raise 1 million meals,” Tanaka explains, “and I thought that it would be a good thing for our club to try to help them make their goal.

“We also are going to have Hawaii Foodbank come talk with the players to explain a little bit about the food bank and why it’s important for people to be able to donate.”

The Tanakas and other parents on the club’s board aim to provide that type of educational component for a majority of the service events.

“When we play, it’s not just winning – it’s how well you do and how hard you try,” Tanaka says. “But at the end of the game, there are other things that are out there that are also important that they should be aware of … I wanted (the club) to be something where they could develop into a good, skilled soccer player, but I also wanted them to develop as a whole person.”

Lanakila Soccer Club hopes to add a couple more teams for the next soccer season. For more information or to register, visit lanakilasoccer.org.

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