There were smiles – so many smiles. Tears of joy, too.
Seeing that pure emotion from happy kids and adults made all the hard work behind the scenes worthwhile.
It was why Philadelphia Union midfielder Kyle Nakazawa put together “Soccer Hawaii,” a camp in Hawaii to benefit local kids. Instructors included Union defender Jordan Harvey and Seattle Sounders midfielder David Estrada, who was Nakazawa’s teammate at UCLA.
The camp was held from Dec. 20-23 in Kauai, and Nakazawa hopes to make it an annual event.
“Part of my family lives in Kauai, and there are so many kids who don’t get the chance to be exposed to something like this, so I thought it would be a good idea,” Nakazawa said. “I have so many special memories there. Growing up there, there aren’t that many options for all kids to play soccer. I thought it would be a great place to start something.”
More than 70 kids signed up for the camp, and by all accounts it was a smashing success.
WATCH: Kyle and Sebastien's Crib
“I talked to the kids and you couldn’t get them to stop smiling,” Nakazawa said. “They had a great time. There were even some parents, and I remember a couple of the mothers just crying. They were happy tears. They were so grateful to me for launching this camp. You know what? It made me feel that much better to know that a camp like ours could make a difference. That was the plan.”
Nakazawa, who completed his rookie season with the Union in 2010, understands just how fortunate he is to be playing professional soccer for a living. This is the sport he grew up playing with his friends.
As a result, this is the sport he feels strongly about promoting, especially to kids.
“I love the sport of soccer,” Nakazawa said. “Getting kids introduced to the sport at a young age is very important to me. The purpose of this camp is to help kids who might not otherwise have a chance to get this type of instruction.
"It was an honor for me to run the camp. The kids were thrilled. I think the parents were even happier. I want to do this every winter and keep helping the kids. This camp is all for them."