Indian River Soccer Association outfits young players in Puerto Rico with team uniforms

Nov 8, 2018

Stephanie Dilella and Laura Radocaj at the Indian River Soccer Association fields collecting uniforms to send to Puerto Rico
Credit Tania Ortega-Cowan

A simple idea and swift action by two soccer moms is about to help a lot of kids in Puerto Rico.

LR: “I had this idea because both my kids – I have 6-year-old twins (who) play soccer at IRSA”

That’s Vero Beach native Laura Radocaj talking about the Indian River Soccer Association. She and fellow soccer mom Stephanie Dilella are collecting and about to ship an over-abundance of soccer uniforms to Puerto Rico, where hundreds of children who want to play soccer are ready to receive them!

We met up with them at the soccer fields one recent Friday evening to find out more.

LR: “Each season it’s awesome – they get a new uniform which includes a jersey, soccer socks and shorts. Great but then every season it just gets stuffed to the back of the closet.”

Last year she took a deep look into that closet and what she saw was an excess of practically brand-new soccer uniforms!

LR: “I was like there has got to be a better use for this!”

She started looking into ways the uniforms could be passed on to a group that could really use them, and she thought of her friend, fellow soccer mom, Stephanie Dilella.

LR: “But an idea is nothing without action, so I contacted Stephanie because I knew she was part of IRSA, gave her my idea and she kind of was the man power behind it and she really ran with it.”

The two met when their kids were in preschool playing sports together.

SD: “My name’s Stephanie Dilella. She said, what do you think about this idea? And I said yes, we give out a new color uniform every year – you are never the same color. And that is why keep continually getting new uniforms. We saw this abundance like Laura said and we felt like there has got to be a need somewhere. We have the abundance and there has got to be kids out there that don’t have what we have, and we feel so fortunate to have it.”

At this point they still did not know where their uniforms were going but they approached IRSA’s leadership and got immediate support.

So now the task of finding their match was before them, and it was hurricane Maria that made up their minds. One day Dilella was working out at the gym and struck up a conversation there.

SD: “There was a couple there who had a lot of family in Puerto Rico. And they were really trying to, over the months after, trying to raise money and collections and stuff to donate to Puerto Rico so I kind of had them in mind, and I thought Ok this is really where we should do this because we know for sure there is a need there.”

Dilella told them about their idea for the soccer uniforms.

SD: “She said you know my nephew plays soccer in Puerto Rico for the GPS – Global Premiere Soccer Association and they have a coach that would love to receive these uniforms and go over to neighborhoods and low income neighborhoods and distribute this, to distribute these uniforms because there are so many kids in need there and so many kids without anything and so many kids that love soccer as much as our kids do.”

Global Premiere Soccer Association is an international soccer club that builds teams all over the world. Now that they know where the uniforms are going, they have started collecting them from all the league parents. And with 800 kids in the league, that is lot of uniforms!

LR and donors: “And You know what? We need everyone’ help. Oh we have a donation here. YAY! Thank you so much.. Thank you! Here is a jersey and a pair of socks. And then cleats here.. OH thank you. No problem. Glad to help!”

So, collection is the first phase. Next, they will separate by color and size and get them ready for distribution. Temp Control of Vero Beach is sponsoring the shipping to Puerto Rico.

While at the fields, we ran into IRSA president Tom Tierney.

TT: We are super excited about this opportunity that Laura and Stephanie have put together and the board fully supports what they are doing and we are really excited that they have taken this on for us and we are going to provide a great benefit for the kids in Puerto Rico who want to play soccer and can’t afford uniforms or cleats or anything else...

They hope this can become an annual effort.