After enjoying his experience doing community service while attending Dakota Wesleyan University, Dodge City Middle School soccer coach Mario Martinez wanted to share that experience with his team.


After enjoying his experience doing community service while attending Dakota Wesleyan University, Dodge City Middle School soccer coach Mario Martinez wanted to share that experience with his team.
    Martinez recently got his team involved in the Blue-Star Mothers of Southwest Kansas charity organization, a group that sends care packages to soldiers on duty abroad.
    “I have been playing soccer pretty much my whole life and when I was in college, our coach made it a huge part of the team to do any type of community service,” Martinez said. “I thought it was rewarding.
    “In a lot of these kids, in what I have seen, they just do soccer. They don’t see it as a connection between education, between helping other people and the fact that sports can take them other places. So I wanted these kids to experience just not the sport aspect of giving back to the fans, but giving back to the community. I provided them an experience that they could make a difference.” 
    The DCMS soccer players are asked to go around their community to help find people to donate stuff to the charity group to be sent to the soldiers.
    “Even if only half of the team buys into this, I think we reached our goal,” Martinez said. “I know we can’t reach everybody, but if some of these kids turnaround and help somebody else, I think we have done our purpose.”
    The team also has collection bins at the gate during games for people to drop off materials.
    “I was really excited,” Blue-Star Mothers President Margaret Butcher said. “Because I think it is a great opportunity for them to get involved with somebody overseas. Somebody they might know or might not. They will write letters to go in the boxes and the soldiers always love that. If they want to continue a relationship with those soldiers, that is wonderful too.”
    Butcher said once they have enough items collected, the players would be invited to help pack the boxes.
    “Soccer is just a tool,” Martinez said. “If you use it the right way, it can take you far. It paid for my education. If you don’t let it do that for you, you might as well not play it at all.”
    Martinez said he was connected with the group after sending a mass email around the school asking for ways his team can help the community. He was directed the to the Three Angels charity group, who plan several charity events throughout the year, and they directed him to the Blue-Star Mothers.
    The Blue-Star Mothers sent more than 160 boxes to soldiers in November and December.
    “Basically that’s what we do,” Butcher said. “We get the names of local service members that are deployed that are serving in front line situations. We basically pack up items that are on a list, and we send those over several times a year.”