Helping Kids Be Kids

By Barbara Melendez



TAMPA, Fla. (April 16, 2010) – The plight of children in the wake of Haiti’s disastrous earthquake pulls at everyone’s hearts. Relief efforts have been focused on the most serious of their needs – medical care, food and shelter top the list. Their need to return to as much normalcy as possible – under the daunting circumstances – is just as important.



Stationed in Haiti to help with relief efforts, the executive director of the University of South Florida’s Joint Military Leadership Center, Maj. Gen. Luis Visot, and his soldiers enlisted the assistance of family and friends to address the need for Haitian children to lighten their hearts with play. They came through with nearly 100 soccer balls. Visot, commander of the Joint Logistics Command-Haiti of the U. S. Army Reserves, and soldiers from his 377th Theatre Support Command (TSC) distributed 30 of the soccer balls to children at one of the their assigned Internal Displaced Persons (IDP) camps, and the remainder will go to another IDP camp and a local soccer camp.


“We are very grateful for the kind response we have received since we put out the request. And the children’s responses were joy and gratitude. They, along with their families and friends, were very excited about the balls.” Visot said. “A simple touch of kindness goes a long way. We still see some of the children playing with the balls when we stop by the camp. It really makes you feel good to know that we can provide a moment of hope and pleasure in the midst of the disaster.”


If you’re interested in joining the effort to send soccer balls to Haiti, please contact Cynthia Visot at: But time is running out. Balls need to be received no later than April 23, because the 377th TSC (the largest command in the U. S. Army Reserve, headquartered in Belle Chasse. La.) is scheduled to return home in early May, and they are preparing for their departure.


“This has been an unforgettable experience for all of us as we have come to know the Haitian people for the resilient and courageous people they are, and they have come to know us as people they could count on for help,” Visot said. “The children need as many reasons as possible to be happy during these extremely trying times and for kids who play soccer, there’s nothing better than a new ball to play with. Our family and friends have just as much of the ‘can do’ spirit as our troops, and I knew they would come through.


“The sight of smiling children at play is good for everyone, young and old. Kids are kids regardless of where you travel in the world.”



The University of South Florida is one of the nation's top 63 public research universities and one of only 25 public research universities nationwide with very high research activity that is designated as community engaged by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.  USF was awarded $380.4 million in research contracts and grants in FY 2008/2009. The university offers 232 degree programs at the undergraduate, graduate, specialist and doctoral levels, including the doctor of medicine. The USF System has a $1.8 billion annual budget, an annual economic impact of $3.2 billion, and serves more than 47,000 students on institutions/campuses in Tampa, St. Petersburg, Sarasota-Manatee and Lakeland. USF is a member of the Big East Athletic Conference.