Makeila Yancey

Photo courtesy of Makeila Yancey

Heritage star soccer player Makeila Yancey collected and then delivered soccer cleats,  balls and full sets of uniforms to Bushveld Mission Orphans in South Africa last year, and is collecting more donations for a return trip to the region.

Heritage High sisters Malia and Makeila Yancey have put soccer cleats on their feet more times than they can count.

But when the duo put them in the hands of the less fortunate, they learned that shoes can be life-changing.

The siblings collected and then delivered 50 pairs of soccer cleats, 25 balls and full sets of uniforms to Bushveld Mission Orphans in South Africa last year.

The magic of that trip still resonates with the Yanceys a year later and has now forged a path back to the region.

But before the sisters and their family embark on the journey, they need the community’s help.

Makeila is again accepting new or gently used youth cleats for ages 2 to 18, as well as balls, that will be personally delivered to South African orphans.

“For them, it was like Christmas morning opening up their gifts, even though they might have had to share with someone because of the sizes,” Makeila, Heritage’s two-time varsity soccer offensive MVP, remembered about the trip. “They were all incredibly grateful and it left an impact on me by showing me how grateful I should be, how happy I should be that I live in the conditions I do.”

The Yancey girls collected over 100 donated pairs of cleats, jerseys and balls over six months in advance of their first trip—many of the supplies coming from fellow soccer families, neighbors and past coaches—after learning that the orphanage has a soccer field but few or no supplies and equipment.

Lugging the supplies over 10,000 miles to Vaalwater, South Africa, concluded with an over two-hour dirt-road drive to a 60-child orphanage, many of the windows broken and some children sleeping 10 to a room and forced to share beds, blankets and pillows.

Makeila remembers children outside playing their native soccer on a field, almost all barefoot.

But soon that all changed.

“As soon as we went to the car and brought everything out, they were all so excited,” Makeila remembered. “They helped us move everything, and we all played a really big game of soccer that night. It was super fun to see them all enjoying the cleats. It makes you feel good that you are giving people something that you're so accustomed to as a normal thing to have.”

Shannon Yancey, Malia and Makeila’s mother, said that although the children lived with hardly anything, their sweet spirits shined through.

“They were so loving and so kind,” she said. “There were at least three children wrapped around us at all times.”

The Yanceys, who plan to deliver supplies to a second nearby orphanage during their next trip, are especially seeking smaller-sized cleats, to ensure they'll fit the next round of kids. They are also seeking balls, although they have enough jerseys.

“I am looking forward to spending more time with the kids and playing games with them and actually getting into it—teaching them tricks and stuff like that,” Makeila said. “They can teach me things, because they have spent a ton of time with a ball and they know a ton of tricks.”

Cleat and ball donations, directed to Shannon or Makeila Yancey, can be dropped off at Heritage High School's office in Brentwood.