‘Cleats for kids’ is the perfect motto for one young Bay Ridge resident.
15-year-old Christopher Johnson is on a mission not only to reach Eagle Scout ranking, but to give back to young athletes in the community while doing so.
Since this past summer, Johnson, who is currently a life scout in Troop 715, has been thinking of ideas for his service project that would be significant enough to reach the highest level in the Boy Scouts.
An avid soccer fan and member of the 68th Precinct Youth Council since he was in the third grade, Johnson decided it was the perfect opportunity to give back by asking the community donate sporting equipment.
“I collected over 100 pairs of cleats in donations and it’s all going to the 68th Youth Council. Now, kids can play a game and not have to worry about not having equipment and getting hurt,” he said. “I was just bouncing a bunch of ideas off them and I saw that many people didn’t have cleats. They were wearing sneakers instead and the idea came to me. A lot of people grow out of cleats. Instead of throwing them out, I thought it would be a good idea to put them to good use by giving them to kids that don’t have them.”
Johnson sent fliers, which listed his objective, along with eight venues throughout the community where the equipment could be donated. “Also, for the benefit for the field, help the league buy more equipment, like new nets,” Johnson said. “Anything the 68th Precinct Youth Council needs, I’m here to help them.”
But, first Johnson had to get the idea approved by Donna Fathelbab, the league’s co-commissioner, and the scout committee. Once all that cleared, the soon-to-be Eagle Scout was well on his way. “First, we collected them, then we washed them and sanitized them with spray and powder,” he said. Once they were cleaned, he distributed them on Friday, August 28. “Not many people were back from their summer vacations so I decided to give them away today.”
On Wednesday, September 9, Johnson held another distribution day at Dyker Park, this time to much more fanfare as State Senator Marty Golden congratulated the youngster on his charitable work.
“I’m really proud at how many people have donated. I’m proud of my troop for helping them out,” Johnson said. “This day means a lot. Not everybody has the money for equipment. By doing this, it makes everyone play safe.”
Johnson has also created an inventory through which, if players grow out of the cleats that they got, they could just swap them out.
Fathelbab expressed how happy she was with the effort. “We’re so grateful for what he’s doing for the kids in the community and we’re proud he’s one of our own. He grew up in the 68th Precinct,” she said. “It was absolutely a great idea.”
Anthony Grigos, who also serves as soccer co-commissioner, agreed. “Picking a scout project is not easy,” he explained. “Picking a group like the 68th Precinct that services close to 1,000 kids is great. It’s a nice idea to give cleats and shin guards and other soccer equipment to kids that may not have the means to afford them or those who just want another pair of cleats for the season.”
Johnson’s mother, Christina, is basking in the glow of his son’s efforts. “I’m very proud of his accomplishments,” she said. “I have three boys and he’s the oldest, so he’s a role model to his brothers and cousins.”