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Girls Soccer: Phillips, Penncrest kick off for a good cause

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Some summer camps offer a few days of fun in the sun. Some offer transformational experiences.

For Penncrest midfielder Paige Phillips, last summer was one of the latter. And she’s passing on the message.

Phillips and her Penncrest teammates staged a charity event last weekend, bringing together 12 teams of players and parents for a morning of mini-games to raise money for Magic Bus, a charity which brings sporting opportunities to children living in poverty in India.

With the help of the Penncrest community and girls soccer coach Alicia Santelli, the event raised almost $600 and also included an equipment drive that provided used soccer cleats and other gear for the organization.

Phillips came to learn about Magic Bus’s activities at a summer camp hosted by the Julie Foudy Sports Leadership Academy over the summer at the Peddie School in New Jersey. Foudy has partnered her charity with Magic Bus, a multinational non-governmental organization seeking to improve the lives of children existing in poverty in India through sport.

Magic Bus, which is based in Mumbai and operates fundraising arms in the United States, United Kingdom and Germany, has touched the lives of a quarter of a million children in seven states of India, including some of the poorest area of the developing nation. By spreading the message and inclusiveness of sport for the last decade, Magic Bus expands the horizons of children, making them more likely to stay in school, remain healthy and disease-free and escape poverty. The organization also provides a much-needed support structure that involves mentoring to empower young men and women to escape the cycle of poverty and violence and instill leadership values that feed-forward the process of prosperity.

Foudy’s academy, which runs camps in three states, helps improve young girls skills on the soccer and lacrosse fields while also providing lessons in leadership and confidence that translate off the field. It is in that vein that JFSLA and Magic Bus partnered up.

Starting in 2011, Magic Bus began sending girls from the slums of India to JFSLA camps, first in San Francisco, to experience sport and freedom outside of their home country. As described by ESPNW, the 20-hour flight for most was the first time they’d ever flown on a plane, ever left their families or India, a country where women and women’s sports remain marginalized and confined to subpar opportunities.

It was at a camp like that at the Peddie School that Phillips met one of the girls from Magic Bus, Prajakta Tambadkar. It was the similarities that the two soccer players and roommates shared that inspired Phillips’ fundraising drive.

“I thought there would be so many differences because we come from such different places,” Phillips said. “But we had so much in common. It was cool to know that the things she was aspiring to – wanting to be a coach and having a goal to come to the U.S. to be a college coach – those were the same as my goals.”

Phillips has experience with charitable drives, organizing one last year through her FC Delco club team for the victims of tornados in Alabama that raised over $6,000 for the Red Cross. This effort didn’t hit the same types of numbers, but the cause was no less personal.

“It meant a lot to me,” Phillips said of meeting and learning from Tambadkar, with whom she keeps in contact via Facebook. “By meeting her and hearing the stories she had about her life, it really had a big impact. I wanted to help out any way I could. I knew my high school team would support the idea.