Hard Work and Teamwork, on the Field and Off
Felix Songolo, sophomore captain of the varsity boys’ soccer team at De La Salle North Catholic High School (shown here sporting his Knights jersey), has been playing soccer since he was five. The game runs in his family: His father, mother, older brother, younger twin brothers, and even his youngest brother, now five years old himself, all play. Felix says his first memory from childhood is of watching his older brother play soccer when their family still lived in Africa.
Felix and his family moved to the U.S. in 2005, fleeing conflict in their home country of Zambia. Throughout his time in a refugee camp and afterward in adjusting to life in America, Felix found a sense of community in playing soccer. Now, after overcoming difficult times, he refuses to let anything stand in his way. Even with a busy practice schedule, he plans to maintain his 4.0 GPA, graduate as the class valedictorian and go on to play college soccer.
“My parents sacrificed to move to America, and because of that, I don’t take the opportunity to get an education and play soccer for granted,” said Felix. “If my desire for success is greater than my fear of failure, then I will succeed.”
Felix credits soccer with helping him deal with challenges because it’s a team sport.
“I started school in the first grade, and it was tough because I did not have many friends other than my family,” Felix said. “Playing soccer during recess gave me a voice with the other kids and helped me create friendships and a deeper love for the game.”
As an intern at Oregon Health & Science University through the Corporate Work Study Program, Felix also gains experience, friendships and preparation for his dream of becoming a neurologist. He credits his parents as the force that helps him perform to the best of his abilities, as he says, “continuing to push me through thick and thin, placing their lives on hold for me and my siblings.”
We admire Felix for his hard work and teamwork, two values we can get behind.
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Big Wheels Plus Little Kids Equal Lots of Fun
For the past eight years, children of all ages in Southwest Washington have had a good reason to look forward to the third weekend in May, because that’s when — rain or shine — they get to go to Dozer Day.
Dozer Day is an annual, weekend-long fundraising event where the rides are heavy construction equipment. Kids get the real-world construction experience by hopping in the cab — with a professional operator at their sides — and drive bulldozers, excavators and other machines. About 20,000 guests attend Dozer Day every year.
Les Schwab Tire Centers has been a proud sponsor of the event for several years. The organization behind Dozer Day, the Nutter Family Foundation, shares Les Schwab’s values: giving children opportunities to grow and develop their talents, and the importance of community.
“Whenever we need anything, Les Schwab is there,” said Renee Nutter, the event organizer of the Nutter Family Foundation. “Like us, their basic attitude is, ‘We’re going to knock it out of the park for them.’”
Les Schwab’s signature contribution is the Tire Crawl, a large sandbox filled sand in which several giant tires the kind Les Schwab sells for tractors, earth movers and log loaders — are stacked up 5-feet high to give kids a place to climb while they wait their turn to drive one of the big trucks.
“The kids have a blast, and it gives me a good feeling to watch them,” said Brien Rose, manager of the Woodland store. “Plus I get to hear their parents’ Les Schwab stories, whether it’s about just enjoying the free popcorn in the store or appreciating the donations and fundraisers we contribute to.”
Les Schwab also hosted the pre-event Friday for disadvantaged or disabled children. This year, several hundred kids came from the Evergreen School District to explore the Tire Crawl and had their yellow construction helmets decorated with a Les Schwab sticker.
Like Les Schwab, the community does its part to make the weekend special for the kids. Members of the Southwest Washington Contractors Association volunteer as operators. Teens, ages 14 to 18, recruited from the key clubs and honor societies in local high schools, make up the other half of volunteers. They do everything from escorting the younger kids to and from the equipment to checking in with guests to make sure they’re having a good time.
The Nutter Family Foundation teams up with individuals and local businesses that also share a passion for fostering kids’ growth. For example, members of Portland YouthBuilders volunteer at the event. The nonprofit organization helps provide education, vocational training and leadership development service to low-income youth, is also a recipient of the foundation’s grants.
Renee’s goal when she started Dozer Day was to raise $1 million in 10 years, and according to Nutter, it looks like she’ll exceed that goal a year early, but the kids will always be her primary focus.
“I remember in the first year, a little boy was crying his eyes out, so I checked in with his parents to see if he’d been hurt or if someone was picking on him,” Renee said. “‘No,’ his parents told me. ‘He’s just mad because we have to leave.’”
Lucky for us, Dozer Day will be back next May, with another opportunity to put children in the driver’s seat of heavy construction equipment, get to pitch in to help their neighbors and to have fun.
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Working with FFA Student Members to Fight Hunger
Every October, the student members of the FFA help collect as much food and funds as possible for the annual Drive Away Hunger Initiative (#DriveAwayHunger). Les Schwab stores across Oregon were able to take part in the campaign as a drop-off location for donations as well as a pick-up location for special collection bags.
This year’s initiative brought in 456,546 pounds of food. That’s enough to provide 342,420 meals to deserving families.
The Oregon Food Bank has seen a 40% increase in demand for emergency food boxes since 2008. That steady increase is why FFA student members work so hard every year to help collect food and funds. With their motto of “learning to do, doing to learn, earning to live, and living to serve,” the more than 6,500 Oregon FFA members are doing their part to end hunger. Their hard work and dedication have not gone unnoticed. Les Schwab locations throughout Oregon look forward to helping again next year.
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