Ashley LodatoBy Ashley Lodato

The Karr family has had a couple of fun weeks giving away soccer balls in Chiapas, Mexico. Last year when the family traveled to El Salvador, Christian came up with the idea of bringing soccer balls along with them and they took 100 deflated balls down, which they acquired through the Challenger Teamwear representative that Methow Valley Youth Soccer works with. This year they took 80 balls of different sizes in large cardboard boxes, along with a couple of pumps and bags.

Erika says they have been loading themselves up with 10 to 12 balls and then walking into different barrios, looking for areas that seem particularly impoverished. When they see some kids, they approach them and ask if they like fùtbol, and if the answer is yes, as it usually is, they begin handing out balls.

Christian is good about making sure the kids know that the balls are to share with their friends, as they only have 80 balls and there are so many kids. The kids are usually thrilled and almost always willing to share. They are also very quick to look out for one another, making sure that things are distributed fairly.

Word travels super quickly and once they give away a ball, kids come from everywhere. After they give the balls away, Christian and Sebastian and Bellamy play a quick scrimmage with the kids.

The Karrs have also brought balls to a few schools. Their initial plan was just to throw some balls over the gate of an elementary school as a surprise (although Sebastian was a little concerned about the legality of this and worried about getting thrown into a Mexican jail), but after they threw the first ball over the fence the principal came out so they gave him the balls to distribute.

Fifth graders Sebastian and Bellamy are really enjoying the whole process of scoping out neighborhoods and looking for kids to give the balls to. As Erika says, nothing bridges a language barrier like a game of soccer. Sebastian reports, “It is extraordinarily fun to give balls to kids who don’t have anything,” while Bellamy says, “It is really fun to give balls away. I like to see how some kids react — some are grabby, some don’t have a single word to say, and some are flabbergasted.”

Little Star Montessori celebrates its 32nd birthday this week. With so many little stars (the Bjornsens and Brian Gregg among them) and big stars (Rayma Hayes) in the spotlight lately for pursuits as varied as Olympic participation and ballroom dance competition, it’s even more reason to applaud the little school that has done so much for so many. Happy birthday, Little Star! No other school is what you are.