Over the years the sponsor patch has become a fairly common site at the WSOP Main Event. Hoping to get some exposure for their company or product, sponsors are happy to put their logo onto a big-name poker player during poker’s biggest event.
Over the years there have been some rather – how to put this – interesting companies patch players up. A patio furniture company. A real estate guru. A private jet rental company. A vitamin supplement. But the patch that Candace Collins is wearing on Day 1B of the 2015 WSOP Main Event isn’t about some great new product but rather a cause.
Project Play Soccer is a charity dedicated to giving kids around the world a soccer ball. It was founded by Collins’ uncle, Mike Mitchell.
“He was in West Africa for several years and he was a soccer coach with a lot of children and youth,” said Collins on the first break of Day 1B. “I’ve seen and researched what he’s done and it’s incredible. There’s a lot of people living in poverty or violence (there). It was amazing what just the soccer ball would do for these children and even young adults.”
Mitchell was in the peace corps in West Africa when he discovered that having a soccer ball in your hands made for an easy introduction to local kids. A college soccer player, Mitchell was more than happy to share his passion for the game with local kids. He quickly learned that giving a young child something to play with — a soccer ball — was a great way to keep them out of trouble.
Mitchell started Project Play Soccer in hopes of raising funds to buy and ship soccer balls to the kids in those countries. Collins decided to represent the charity in the Main Event this summer to raise some awareness and hopefully more than that.
“Poker is kind of a unique way for me to spread the word. I know there’s a lot of sports fanatics out there and I can just talk about it,” said Collins, who found 2014 BLUFF Player of the Year Dan Colman at her Day 1B table. “I decided to wear a patch here at the WSOP so I can hopefully talk to some people and hopefully get some donations.”
Collins, who was a BLUFF.com WPT Ones to Watch this past season, feels the younger generation of poker pros are doing more to be socially aware and get involved in charitable work.
“It’s kind of incredible. The young generation are really realizing that poker is sort of a selfish thing and they’re like ‘okay what am I going to do to give back or be more selfless’,” said Collins. “I think poker opens the doors to give back even if it’s just a little percentage of what you win and there’s tons of foundations out there. It’s really cool that we get to play what we love and also give back.”
Representing the charity at a poker event is one thing, but Collins wants to do more. She wants to get involved in a bigger way and is looking forward to being closer to her uncle in the coming months as he prepares to move back to the States.
“I wanted to just get my feet wet on giving back and this was the first thing I could really be hands-on with,” said Collins. “(My uncle) is moving here from Brazil. He lives there now and he has this wonderful yoga-meditation studio. He’s moving to Santa Cruz, so I’l be able to do yoga with him and pick his brain. It really inspires me. Anything that has to do with children, I wanted to be involved in.”
Collins recently began working with her local youth soccer league to increase state-side awareness and sees a natural extension of the program right here at home.
“It’s obviously the world’s most popular sport but I think there’s some children in the States that would benefit from this. We’ll find out who needs it and get those balls out there and get those kids playing and enjoying their lives,” said Collins.
That being said Collins would also like to travel with her uncle in support of the charity.
“It would be hard for me, but I would love to. I would probably come back with ten children. I’d be like Angelina Jolie, adopting all these kids,” joked Collins. “I hope to travel and be more hands on with the soccer balls and actually donating them.”
For more information on the charity visit ProjectPlaySoccer.org.
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