World of Children Awardee
Because of his extraordinary efforts in helping kids in Africa through sports, Kyle has become a recipient of a number of awards and recognitions. Most recently, he was included in Youth Service America’s list of the 25 Most Powerful and Influential Young People in the World in recognition of his positive contributions to the lives of African youth through soccer. Kyle has also been named as one of Build-a-Bear’s Huggable Heroes and was also a recipient of the World of Children Award, which is touted as the “Nobel Prize” for Child Advocates.
While many of us might think it strange that Kyle’s philanthropic efforts are focused on sports rather than on things like food, shelter, and clothing (which a lot of us view as the most important needs of any human being), he does not. Kyle firmly believes that engaging in sports helps a young person become more focused in what he does, more passionate in life, and helps him build relationships with people at a lot better pace than if he or she did not engage in sports.
In an interview, Kyle said:
“Play and sports are tools that teach important values and life skills including confidence, teamwork, communication, discipline, respect and fair play. Sports can have a positive impact on children’s education and can improve a child’s ability to learn, while increasing their ability to concentrate. Children learn better when they are having fun and being active. As Nelson Mandela said, 'Sport has the power to change the world.'”
Through Kyle’s experience in Africa, he was able to realize just how essential sport is in the lives of the African youth. Living everyday surrounded by poverty, violence, and sickness can create a lot of stress and negative influences in a young person’s life, and it is through sports that he or she is able to relieve those things from building up in his or her life.
Kyle sees the work of his organization to be just as important as what other organizations are doing. To him, having food, shelter and clothing and yet having nothing to have fun with is no good at all. It is through fun that children are able to express themselves and gain confidence, and at the same time develop a positive outlook in life that they will carry for the rest of their lives.
Kyle often says of FUNDaFIELD’s work:
“All of us on the FUNDaFIELD team have benefited from having sports in our lives. Kids everywhere should have the same opportunities. We are working to make it happen. FUNDaFIELD can’t solve all the problems that exist in Africa though we wish we could. Our goal is to form a partnership with organizations that have made it their mission to provide food, water, medicine, and education to students. Once they have the infrastructures in place and the schools built, FUNDaFIELD will be able to provide a safe field with equipment to play the game of soccer, to provide short break each day from living with disease, hunger and all that accompanies extreme poverty.”
An Early Love for Soccer
Kyle Weiss was born in 1992 in Danville, California. His father was Greg Weiss, an avid fan of soccer, who became the main reason for Kyle’s passion for the game. Kyle has an older brother named Garrett.
Ever since he started to walk, Kyle was already into the game of soccer. Along with his older brother Garrett, Kyle would often spend his toddler years playing with a soccer ball in their yard and by the age of five or six, Kyle was coached by his father Greg in the game. Soccer had always been a part of the Weiss family tradition, so much so that Greg and his children would play soccer all throughout the week—soccer practices during the weekdays and games during the weekends.
Becoming an avid fan of the game while growing up, Kyle also often watched soccer games on television with his father or went with him to live soccer games, where they would linger after the game so they can get players’ autographs.
Kyle was an above–average student. Not only was he outgoing and sporty, Kyle was also very bright and displayed leadership skills, which caused his teachers to oftentimes praise him in class. Kyle also loved to play junior soccer games in the neighbourhood, and was among the best players of his age.
The Game That Changed Kyle’s Life
When Kyle was thirteen years old, Greg brought him and the entire family to Germany to watch the 2006 FIFA World Cup. It was a truly memorable experience for Kyle. It was also among the most significant incidents in his life because it was through this event that he would discover what he wanted to do for as long as he lives.
When Kyle and his family walked to their seats at the famous Leipzig Stadium, they witnessed the massive “sea” of fans that came along to watch the game. The World Cup was being competed for by Iran and Angola, with the latter playing for the first time in the world-renowned football event. While Kyle saw thousands upon thousands of Iranian fans across the entire stadium, he saw a small section of Angolan fans wearing red shirts and raising Angolan flags. And though small, Kyle saw how the passion the Angolan fans displayed was more than any of the fans of other teams. Kyle described this kind of passion as ‘contagious,’ and it affected him greatly that it left a profound impression on him that day.
Even after the game, Kyle kept on wondering how such a small group of people could affect him in a way like no other larger group in that stadium could. He and his brother Garrett then began to study more about the people of Angola. What the two brothers discovered was something that brought a change of perspective to the game that they nonchalantly enjoyed. Kyle said:
“We discovered that just earning the right to make it to the World Cup was a major achievement for this impoverished country. Organized sports are a luxury that most cannot afford. Daily life for many African children consists of little or no education, near starvation, and fear for many that their parents have been infected with HIV. Short of the basic necessities needed to survive, luxuries such as sports, are a very low priority in their lives.”
Then it hit him. All the while, Kyle and his brother had been fortunate to grow up and enjoy soccer in a country that provided them sufficient equipment, playable fields and organized teams; while on another part of the world, children who bore the same passion for the game were living in a place that lacked not only the equipment, fields and teams, but even the most basic necessities of living. Kyle then recalled his experience in meeting the Angolan fans:
“Meeting the fans from Angola was an eye opener. Seeing the excitement in their eyes and hearing the passion in their voice, for a sport they loved as much as we do, motivated us to create FUNDaFIELD. We hoped to bring to African children, the same enjoyment my brother and I experienced growing up on a soccer field.”
The Birth of FUNDaFIELD
With the support and encouragement of their parents, Kyle and Garrett Weiss founded FUNDaFIELD, with the aim of providing soccer fields and equipment to young Africans so they can enjoy the sport with the necessary equipment.
In the next few years, Kyle and Garrett worked together in promoting the goals of their organization. They received an overwhelming positive response from their fellow Americans, who were very eager to contribute what they could in order to help the young people in Africa. In 2011, Kyle managed to visit the country of Uganda where he bore witness to the graveness of the situation of the people living in a small village called Namuwongo. However, in spite of seeing how desperate the situation was, Kyle was relieved after knowing that the soccer field FUNDaFIELD provided was greatly helping the young Ugandans by giving them a bit of comfort in the terrible life they were experiencing.
Throughout his years of serving through FUNDaFIELD, Kyle has seen the exponential growth of the lives that they are helping through sports. In many of the places that he has visited, Kyle was thanked by the young people who were formerly child soldiers because of the “therapeutic effect” of soccer that helped these kids get back into society as normal people. Kyle said in a blog he wrote in 2012:
“In the six years since FUNDaFIELD was born, our photo timeline has grown and matured exponentially. Upon reexamination of our work, we realized that our soccer fields were having the greatest impact on kids in areas that had recently undergone conflict or some sort of traumatic experience. The therapeutic benefits of sport can be life-changing to children who are former child soldiers, have lost both parents to disease, have been physically or mentally abused or have been through any other traumatic experience. We now use the power of sports to assist in rebuilding lives and communities.”
Today, Kyle continues his extraordinary efforts in bringing hope to the young people of Africa through sports. Kyle’s story reminds us that no effort of helping is too small, because while it may seem small to us, it may be the whole world for the person that we are helping.
Kyle quotes Nelson Mandela’s speech:
“As Nelson Mandela said: Sport has the power to change the world. It has the power to unite in a way that little else does. It speaks to youth in a language they understand. Sport can create hope where once there was only despair. It is more powerful than governments in breaking down racial barriers. It laughs in the face of all types of discrimination.”
Organizations and Programmes Supported
- Toy Box of Hope
Awards and Achievements
- 2010: Received the Diller Teen Tikkun Olam Award
- 2011: Received the HALO Award
- 2011: Received the Build-a-Bear Huggable Hero Award
- 2012: Received the World of Children Award, which is dubbed as the Nobel Prize for Child Advocates
- 2012: Included in the 25 Most Powerful and Influential Young People in the World by Youth Service America