Caitlan Carney of Baden is not your average teenager.
A senior at Quigley Catholic High School, also in Baden, and captain of the women's soccer team, Caitlan, 18, has been working to make a difference in her community since she was in fourth grade.
Now, she's set her sights abroad and has teamed up with Goals Haiti to reach out to victims of the 2010 earthquake that devastated the island nation.
Goals Haiti is a nonprofit organization that uses soccer to engage kids in community work that improves their quality of life, the environment and local leadership. Programs include after-school activities, competitive soccer clubs, summer camps, workshops and high school scholarships.
"I was really excited when I found out about it," she said. "It was absolutely perfect. I couldn't have asked for anything better."
In August, Caitlan began collecting used soccer uniforms and equipment to be donated to children in Leogane, Haiti, where lives were destroyed by the earthquake nearly three years ago.
She has collected about $1,000 worth of equipment that will outfit approximately 50 to 75 children with uniforms, soccer balls, cleats, socks, shirts and shin guards.
Each piece of donated equipment will be labeled with a handcrafted tag designed by Caitlan.
"Knowing that this is really going to help the Haitian children really makes me feel happy about everything that I've been doing," she said.
Her plan is to ship everything by the end of this month to Goals Haiti's headquarters in Sarasota, Fla., where the items will be sent to Haiti. Goals will cover the high cost of shipping.
The service project has proved to be no small task for Caitlan, who is working on two other charitable causes.
This is the fourth year she has partnered with the Benedictine Sisters from the Greene County Mission in Waynesburg for their Project Warm-Up, which distributes gently used winter coats and accessories to those in need.
Caitlan has been collecting donations from her high school, her home parish of Our Lady of Peace in Conway and St. James School in Sewickley.
She also is working on Project Reveal and has partnered with Habitat for Humanity of Beaver County to sponsor two children's bedrooms that she will furnish with toys and furniture donated by retail stores in spring 2013.
Caitlan's heart for charity began in the fourth grade after she ran for student council secretary and lost.
Upset by the defeat, she said she drew upon her parents' advice, which was to do something nice for someone else in the face of disappointment.
She started her own service project in her classroom, a book collection for the children of Greene County, and said it snowballed from there.
Though Caitlan gives so freely of her time, love and energy to those in need, she said she is often the one who ends up receiving the most.
"I love helping those that have not been as blessed as I am," she said. "It just feels amazing to get back to kids because I feel that you learn more about yourself in the situations where you're giving yourself to other people."neigh_west
Shannon M. Nass, freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org.