Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Teen's trip to South Africa is impetus for charity that equips kids to play soccer

SPRING HILL — Seventeen-year-old Warren Backman lives a comfortable life.

He represents the third generation of a thriving business family in Hernando County. He is the son of a former professional soccer player and has pursued the game himself since he was a toddler. He attends private school in Tampa. And he's a world traveler.

It's his travels that helped open his eyes to the world's less fortunate.

"My dad's from South Africa," Backman said. "When I last went to South Africa — I was in the sixth grade — we were just driving around Johannesburg, and as we were driving we saw just this dusty old open field, and there were kids, hundreds of them, (playing soccer).

"They had two little shoes to mark where the goals were. They were kicking around cans and rocks, anything round.

"What baffled me was they had nothing, and they were so happy, content that they could run around and play. I turned to my dad and asked how they could be so happy without anything.

"I asked Dad, 'What would they do if they had proper equipment?' "

That scene, and the question, stuck with the Spring Hill teenager, now a senior at Berkeley Preparatory School in Tampa, and prompted him to start a charity, Score for South Africa.

For about a year, Backman has been collecting new and "gently used" essentials to play the game of soccer: balls, shin guards, cleats, socks, "anything that we could give them to use."

Backman has lobbied members of his youth soccer club, Tampa Bay United, to donate equipment they might have outgrown or upgraded.

He stores the donations at the Smart Interiors furniture store in Spring Hill that his parents, Derek and Kimberly Backman, manage.

While most donations fall into the "gently used" category, some people have purchased new items to deposit in the barrels and boxes Backman has provided and serviced with the help of his dad, a former professional soccer player with the Tampa Bay Rowdies and Tampa Bay Mutiny.

Plans are under way, the teenage founder said, to extend solicitation to other soccer clubs in the Tampa Bay area.

From an introduction to charity work during his sophomore year, including a community service requirement, Backman learned it wasn't enough merely to collect. A recipient designation outline and a distribution plan were needed.

Backman turned to his uncle, Derek Backman's brother, Trevor, a resident and missionary in South Africa who visited his relatives in Spring Hill last summer.

"We discussed charities in South Africa and how (Trevor Backman) would organize this so it was properly done," the younger Backman said. "He would use his missionary connections to give (the equipment) to children or any kids who need it."

The teen conjured up another outlet. His grandparents, Murray and Delores Smart, have a condo and business extension in Aruba, with clients across the Caribbean and into South America.

"With (Grandmother's) connections, she has been able to expand my charity to Colombia. So, there's distribution to Colombia, Aruba and South Africa, much higher than my expectations to start with," Backman said.

The first big box of donations was sent recently to South Africa, with hopes that it would arrive in time for Christmas.

His grandfather said the entire family is proud of Backman's desire to help others.

"We think it's exciting that a kid his age would think of this," Murray Smart said.

The teen's response: "There are other people who do nice things, too."

Backman will have an opportunity to see his charitable work in action next year. As a high school graduation gift, his parents intend to send him on a trip to South Africa.

Then, come fall, it's off to college, where Backman will continue to play the game he loves.

The 6-foot-1, 185-pound left back is being recruited by Juniata College in Huntingdon, Pa., Drew University in Madison, N.J., and Emerson College in Boston.

Beth Gray can be reached at graybethn@earthlink.net.

.fast facts

How you can help

Anyone wishing to make a donation to Warren Backman's Score for South Africa charity may do so at Smart Interiors, 5141 Mariner Blvd., Spring Hill.

Teen's trip to South Africa is impetus for charity that equips kids to play soccer 12/24/13 [Last modified: Friday, January 3, 2014 1:48pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Trump condemns killing of pair who tried to stop racist rant

    Nation

    President Donald Trump on Monday condemned the fatal stabbing of two good Samaritans trying to help a pair of young women targeted by an anti-Muslim tirade on a Portland, Ore., light rail train.

    Coco Douglas, 8, leaves a handmade sign and rocks she painted at a memorial in Portland, Ore., on Saturday for two bystanders who were stabbed to death Friday while trying to stop a man who was yelling anti-Muslim slurs and acting aggressively toward two young women. From left are Coco's brother, Desmond Douglas; her father, Christopher Douglas; and her stepmother, Angel Sauls. [Associated Press]
  2. What major sporting event could Tampa Bay land next?

    Lightning Strikes

    We are on quite a roll as a community. First, we had a Super Bowl drop from the storm clouds into our lap. It just reaffirms the fact that Tampa Bay is great at lap. And Monday it became official: Next year's NHL All-Star Game will be held at Amalie Arena. The best in the world will be here to shoot and score. And …

    MVP Wayne Gretzky is congratulated at the 1999 NHL All-Star game, the last time the event was in Tampa Bay. [DIRK SHADD   |   Times file]
  3. How the 2018 NHL All-Star Game reflects Jeff Vinik's vision for Tampa

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — There were several reasons the NHL announced Monday that Tampa will host the 2018 All-Star Game on Jan. 28.

    This was the  logo for the 1999 NHL All-Star game played Sunday, Jan 24, 1999 at the Ice Palace in Tampa Bay. (AP Photo)
  4. Photo gallery: Nation pays respects to America's war dead on Memorial Day

    Human Interest

    At Memorial Day ceremonies in Tampa Bay area and around the country, Americans paid tribute to the men and women who gave their lives in service to their country.

    Eight-year-old Piper St. Jean, of Tampa, uses a brush to clean the grave of her grandfather, Henry St. Jean, who served with the United States Air Force during the Korean and Vietnam wars. at Curlew Hills Memory Gardens on Monday moments after the conclusion of their 31st annual Memorial Day Service on Monday (5/23/17) in Palm Harbor. The event featured guest speakers, live choral performances by the Palm Harbor United Methodist Church choir and live music by Bones South, an area trombone ensemble with rhythm section. On Saturday local Boy Scout and Girl Scout troops placed flags on veterans???‚??„? graves prior to the event. This is an annual tradition of Curlew Hills' Memorial Day services and helps the Scout troops achieve merit badges. The event is free and the public is invited to attend.
  5. Protest sparks Texas lawmaker threats of gun violence

    National

    AUSTIN, Texas — Hundreds of protesters opposing Texas' tough new anti-"sanctuary cities" law launched a raucous demonstration from the public gallery in the Texas House on Monday, briefly halting work and prompting lawmakers on the floor below to scuffle — and even threaten gun violence — as tense …