CMC Freshman Kyle Weiss was already busy last summer, between starting college and running an international non-profit organization. Then out of the blue, Nickelodeon called and asked to do a story about FUNDaFIELD, the organization Weiss founded at age 13 with his brother Garrett to build soccer fields for kids in Africa. Weiss had about 10 days thereafter to organize a meeting and a fundraiser for the crew of 12 from Nickelodeon in New York to attend.
That's when the surprise came. During the filming, a pizza delivery man came in and interrupted. "There were three seconds where I was like what a rude pizza guy," Weiss said. Then he realized it was TV host Nick Cannon. Cannon was there to congratulate Weiss on winning a Nickelodeon HALO Award, and inside the pizza box was a check for $10,000 for FUNDaFIELD.
The Teen Nick HALO Awards were taped live on October 26 at the Hollywood Palladium and will air as a 90-minute special premiering Sunday, Nov. 6, at 8 p.m. (ET/PT), on Nick at Nite. The awards show recognizes and celebrates teens who are "Helping and Leading Others" (HALO).
"We're proud to be presenting the third annual TeenNick HALO Awards where we celebrate amazing teens who have touched the lives of many people, including the superstars who share their philanthropic spirit," said Marjorie Cohn, President, Original Programming and Development, Nickelodeon. "Our hope is the show will continue to inspire others to make positive changes in their communities and further foster a culture of social activism."
Weiss says he'll be watching the show with friends at the Hub, on campus.
The CMCer was told in advance by Nickelodeon that he would meet a celebrity who shared his passion for his cause, and was thrilled to find outonly the day before classes started at CMCthat it was LA Galaxy Star David Beckham. "We kicked the ball around a little bit, we did headers back and forth, we got to shoot on each other, and since I was playing barefoot he even let me wear his cleats, which was awesome." (Watch Weiss and Beckham in this short promotional clip.)
His favorite star experiences at the HALO Awards? Weiss said in addition to Beckham, his favorites were Charlotte Arnold, from the show Degrassi, and supermodel Heidi Klum, who presented his award. "I went up on stage and she kissed me on the cheek and all my friends were laughing at me in the audience," Weiss said.
Weiss' activism was sparked after his family attended the 2006 World Cup in Germany and sat with the Angolan fans during that country's first World Cup appearance. Weiss learned of the dire state of Angola and how so few people can even afford to leave the country, let alone attend a professional match. He also learned that to the youth of Africa, soccer means everything, but lacking resources, most have to kick a makeshift ball of garbage bags around a dusty lot.
Upon returning from Germany to his Bay Area home in Danville, California, Weiss and his brother decided to take action. He gathered his friends to figure out how they could make a difference. They considered collecting soccer equipment to send overseas to Africa, but realized what the children needed first were soccer fields. And so, FUNDaFIELD was born.
Amy Bibbens, director of the College's new Center for Civic Engagement, says Weiss' response to the need he saw in Africa is exactly "the type of social responsibility that we want to foster at the Center for Civic Engagement." The new Center develops co-curricular programming for students in the areas of service, citizenship, and sustainability. "We look forward to getting more students involved with his work at FUNDaFIELD," she says.
Today, there are 30 core members and 200 plus members in various FUNDaFIELD chapters around the country. FUNDaFIELD has raised $140,000 so far, funding nine soccer fields in Africa. (Follow FUNDaFIELD on Twitter and Facebook.)
It made sense that Weiss would focus his philanthropic efforts on soccer, since he grew up in a soccer-oriented family. "One year we went to every single Earthquakes game. My brother and I would play soccer every single day. We played soccer video games. We were like one of those freaky European families."
At CMC, Weiss plays soccer on an intramural team and says he plays pick up games at least three times per week.
How does a freshman juggle classes, a job at the Kravis Leadership Institute, running a non-profit, taking four trips per year to Africa and traveling to five speaking engagements per year? Weiss says he has lot of help running FUNDaFIELD from other kids in the organization, his family (including his 13-year-old sister) and a lot of interest and support from other CMC students. He said his professors have also been understanding.
"Everyone here is super-supportive, people are very interested in it, and it's great to be in that kind of environment," Weiss said. "But it's always a struggle. Sometimes we fall really behind and have to work really hard to catch up. It's hard to appreciate it until you're over there and kids are playing soccer that's pretty motivating."
Weiss traveled to Africa nine times during his high school career. He says he'll probably make two trips this year, and hopes to take some CMC students along to Africa in summer of 2012. He says it's not just about a game, but that the new soccer fields help heal communities torn apart by war and disaster.
"It's a therapy effect," Weiss said. "There's no trust, then when they play with each other for the first time with the soccer tournaments, they learn to respect each other. At one tournament there was this whole trade set up with vendors, and they ended up doing businesses with each other from then on."
He said CMC is a great place to learn more about his interests, honed from his experiences in Africa. "I'm Interested in economics, internationally, and interested in corruption, and I don't think there's a better place to study that than CMC." Weiss said he's interested in consulting with governments on how to prevent corruption.
"It's unavoidable over there from the lowest levels all the way to the top there's corruption. One of the most interesting things we've learned is how to deal with a corrupt police officer when he has an AK 47," Weiss said.
What's next for FUNDaFIELD? Weiss is working to make each of the fields self-sustaining, launching a new website for the organization and expanding to other areas of the developing world affected by trauma. Weiss said he hopes the Halo Award gets the word out about the effects of building soccer fields. "I think this will make giving back cool for other kids."