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Marc Weaver, Deseret News
Adam Miles talks about the Save-A-Thon for Africa project he and his daughters have been working on for the past year Tuesday, Nov. 27, 2012. Next month, they will be taking more than 100 soccer balls, along with school supplies and food, to children in Ghana.
We can go back there and bless the lives of these kids who really have nothing. … People don't realize the line between dead and alive in Africa is very thin, and people who have been to Africa recognize that. It takes so little to do so much good there. —Adam Miles

HYDE PARK, Cache County — It started with a young boy in Africa.

"He spoke great English and just had the sweetest face," Adam Miles recalled. "He was probably 10 years old."

When Miles and other Americans went to visit the small village in Ghana where the boy lived in March, other children were reaching and grabbing at whatever the visitors had to offer. But not Borges.

"He just kind of lingered, kind of watching me," Miles said. "I didn't notice, but then he came up to me, and he was so respectful and so reserved."

Borges asked for a soccer ball. The Americans had brought a few balls, but they had been claimed by older boys. Borges "kind of got boxed out," Miles said.

Miles didn't have anything to give the boy, but he told the boy that he, too, was a lover of soccer.

"I made a promise at that moment," he said. "I said, 'Borges, I will come back and bring you and all the kids in your village soccer balls."

To keep this promise, Miles knew he'd need the help of another youth half a world away — his 12-year-old daughter, Kylie. A goalkeeper for the competitive Logan Lynx soccer team, Miles had an idea that would combine his daughter's talent, his own passion and commitment, and the love of soccer that united them to help Borges.

"(Kylie) has a big heart, and I knew she'd want to do something like this," Miles said.

He was right, and Save-A-Thon For Africa was born. The process was fairly simple: Kylie went to friends, neighbors, teammates, family and members of her church and asked for pledges. Those who signed up paid her at season's end for every save she made in each soccer game.

"I remember at half(time), I'd be like, 'Dad, how many saves did I make?'" she said.

They had "saveathonforafrica.com" emblazoned on the back of her jersey. Kylie said the project changed the way she played the game.

"I think I played a lot harder and tried to be more involved because we would get donations," she said.

It became a family affair. Their grandfather would make Swedish pancakes and sell them at football games and collect donations. Kylie and her 16-year-old sister, Marissa, sold bottles of water.

They were able to raise $2,500 — enough for 100 to 150 soccer balls. On Dec. 19, Miles, Kylie and Marissa will leave Utah for Houston to London to Lisbon, Portugal, to Accra, Ghana. From there, they will travel another two to three hours to reach the two villages they plan to visit.

It will be a 9,000-mile trip with two bags each to transport the collapsed soccer balls. They also plan to take school supplies and food.

Kylie can only imagine what will happen when she gets there. She said she expects some culture shock and that she will walk away more grateful for all that she has.

"It's crazy," she said. "It's going to be very fun to go to Africa. It's something you wouldn't really expect to happen to you. … It's going to be life-changing."

Miles' trip to Africa in March was his first. But he has worked with African immigrants for about 10 years, after he met another of its native sons and decided to do something to help.

Miles was living with his family in California when he met Joachim Fayani at church. He asked the man if he had a family, and Fayani said he had a wife and six children in Africa.

The man explained that he fled the Central African Republic because his life was in danger. As a political refugee, he and his family had visas, but they didn't have the funds to get everyone to the United States.  

Miles founded Bridges to America, a nonprofit organization, after meeting Fayani.

"Our mission is to help reunite African families," Miles explained. "A lot of African families go through famine, political unrest, wars, etc., and often one of the members of the family will find themselves in the USA.

"We've had several cases where we've helped where dads are here legally but the wife and kids are stranded in Africa, wanting to be back together, wanting a better shot at a good life. They have the legal clearance but don't have the funds to get here," he said.

Miles said he thinks of the Save-a-Thon project as an extension of Bridges to America.

"There's so much more we can do," he said. "We can go back there and bless the lives of these kids who really have nothing. … People don't realize the line between dead and alive in Africa is very thin, and people who have been to Africa recognize that. It takes so little to do so much good there."

And while it wasn't the original plan, they look forward to being able to go to Ghana so close to Christmas. The family was planning to make the trip the first week of December, but they were advised by their host to wait until after the election in Ghana on Dec. 7. They will now travel Dec. 19-24.

"It's great, serendipitous timing to go at Christmas, given the message at this time of year," Miles said.

And while his girls said they don't necessarily know what to expect from Ghana and the children in these villages, Miles does. He saw what even the simple meals of chicken and rice he helped distribute in March did.

"They'll be ecstatic, and the chance for my kids and me to see that kind of hope and excitement from doing so little is priceless," he said. "To be able to have that part of my life, see the rewards of hard work, some creativity and persistence — I couldn't ask for a better Christmas present."

But Miles said he hopes that the trip becomes more than a experience that will change their lives. He knows soccer balls, pencils and markers are simple things, but he hopes they will convey the love and care that went into them.

And that maybe, just maybe, the rubber, leather and thread, the notepads and pens, will mean enough to one of those children to change them.

"It's a small way to make it better," he said. "It's a great way to help them move forward and live more healthy and productive lives."

The Miles family is holding a fundraiser before they leave for Ghana — an event featuring the Utah State University women's soccer team and some of Grandpa's Swedish pancakes. For more information, visit the Soccer Chalk Talk 4 Charity website.

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