Local groups pitch in to gather gifts for kids of Haitian amputees

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We've all heard about paying it forward, but you could say some local groups are now kicking it forward to help a special group of men.

Chris Campasano of Phoenix Pro Soccer said that when people first see the Haitian Amputee soccer team in action, they have just one question.

"The first question is, 'How can an amputee play soccer?'" Campasano said. "But it is actually getting out in front of someone and having them see what that person can do on the field which was so impactful. When they saw that, they thought if they could do that from being the low of the low, that anyone could do it.”

The team has spent the last several months touring the country, which included a stop in Phoenix last month. Campasano said his group wanted to host them for several reasons.

"Our long-term plan was not only to work with this team but to spread the sport within Haiti as well as other places around the world," he said. 

The team just came off of its first Amputee World Cup, part of a tour helping not only to heal their own wounds, but the wounds of their country.

"There were so many people that were affected directly with the earthquake," Campasano said. "We had three members of the team that had lost a limb because of the earthquake." 

Campasano said this team is raising more than awareness, it is also sharing hope.

"Haiti is a great example because if they can overcome what they overcame, anyone can," he said. "So now we want to work with the Wounded Warrior Program and other programs in the U.S. for those people that were recently amputeed or those previously amputeed who did not realize there is a sport like this out there."

That spirit of sharing has now inspired Valley groups to share some Christmas joy with the team.

"One of the things we want to do now is since every one of the players, whether it was from the earthquake or the cholera epidemic or Hurricane Tomas, were affected, we want to provide for the kids of these wonderful men," Campasano said. "Most of them would not have a Christmas unless they have a donated gift." 

Phoenix Pro Soccer has teamed up with Haitian Disaster Relief of Arizona and Buffalo Wild Wings in Gilbert to gather gifts. Restaurant manager Mike LaPietra said it started when the team visited.

"We wanted to lead onto the other and help out their families," LaPietra said. "We got to meet the players and knowing they have kids back home missing their parents, it definitely feels good to help them out."

Buffalo Wild Wings owner Gayle Schmidt hosted the team to dinner when they were here and is using dinner to entice would-be gift givers as well.

"If they come in and donate a present to the Haiti kids we are giving 10 percent off their bill that day," LaPietra said.

Campasano said they hope to surprise the team with the gifts and score some extra presents, as well.

"We can also help other children in orphanages or elsewhere in the country that need it," he said. 

The goal is to keep a season of goodwill and hope alive.

"Not only are we looking to continue the work in Haiti, but the United States does not have a team so we want to build off of this and build an amputee soccer team here in the U.S.," Campasano said.

Donations are being accepted at Buffalo Wild Wings at Gilbert and Warner roads and at Elliot and McQueen roads in Gilbert. You can also visit phxprosoccer.com. They are taking donations through Dec. 19.