Brothers fight hunger with soccer camp

On a recent trip to the grocery store, Kelly Hagemann of Concord loaded up so many cans of food into a cardboard box that she couldn’t lift the box out of her cart into her truck.

But she says she has to stock up. She has to send her kids to soccer camp.

Her sons will be hitting the field this summer at Kicking 4 Hunger, a local youth soccer camp in which participants pay by donating nonperishable food items.

Brothers Gabriel Whaley, a 20-year-old college student, and Gideon Whaley, a 17-year-old rising senior at the N.C. School of Science and Math, serve as camp co-directors.

Gabriel Whaley of Midland created the camp in 2006 when he was a rising high school junior. It started out as a summer project to fulfill his desire to help others and do what he enjoys – playing soccer.

"Our parents had a hard time sending us to camp," he said. "It was so expensive."

The idea to create a camp that collects cans rather than an expensive fee was a hit. During the first summer, they had about 80 campers.

"It’s really taken off from there," said Gabriel Whaley.

Last year, more than 150 kids signed up, and they collected 2,727 canned items, which were donated to Cooperative Christian Ministry in Concord. One year they collected close to 5,000 cans.

The Whaley brothers have delivered pallets stacked with food to the Cooperative Christian Ministry’s food pantry, where they watched needy families go in and out as they unloaded the cans.

"You realize there’s definitely a need," said Gabriel Whaley.

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