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30 Jun 2015

UPDATE: AAU Volleyball Player Brings Hope to Haiti

UPDATE: AAU Volleyball Player Brings Hope to Haiti

UPDATE: Erica Schwegman attended the 2015 AAU Girls' Junior National Volleyball Championships with her Legacy 17 Orange team in the 17 Club division. Her team won all their pool play matches, only going into three sets twice. 

Their record qualified them for the Championship Bracket, where they were defeated by Mizuno Wisconsin Juniors 17 Elite. Legacy 17 Orange tied for 5th out of 115 teams in their division. 

Congratulations to Erica and her Legacy 17 Orange team! We hope to see you again next year! 

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Written By: Amanda Szylin 

As a high school student in Birmingham, Michigan, Erica Schwegman is a busy teenager. She plays volleyball, studies hard and is a typical 17 year old. But unlike most teenagers, she doesn’t take what she has for granted and realizes how many are less fortunate than her.

When the high school junior heard from a missionary about the great need for skirts and shorts for the children in the poor mountain region of Chiraque, Haiti, she knew she had the resources to help.

“I feel so blessed to live in a nice home and attend a wonderful school,” Schwegman said. “I have a bright future and the opportunity to make choices and do things these children don't even know how to dream about.”

With the assistance of her team and school, she began the Teen Hearts for Haiti initiative. Her volleyball team and her friends helped her collect gently used summer skirts and basketball shorts for these kids.

Schwegman could have stopped there, but she didn’t. She wanted to make a personal connection with each of the children that she was helping.

“I wanted to personally reach out and share friendship, love and hope,” Schwegman explained. “I wanted them to simply have the opportunity to choose something pretty for themselves, something that would make them smile.”

After thinking about it long and hard, she decided on something simple. Jewelry.

“I love jewelry and have always enjoyed creating it,” she said. “For me, it was the perfect way to send my message: ‘Though we may be far apart, we are all the same and we share one heart’.”

Schwegman adds that while she knows the clothing she is donating is a necessity for the children she is helping, she hopes they get more out of the donation than that.

“I personally hope the kids feel a sense of belonging and a connection with the rest of the world that they know so little about,” she said. “I hope they enjoy wearing the beautiful, brightly colored skirts and shorts that were shared and I hope each time they look at their wrist, they know that the world is full of love, goodness, generosity and people who will never give up on them. Ultimately, I hope these children may someday have the opportunity to follow their dreams wherever they may lead.”

Speaking of dreams, Schwegman will attempt to make one of her dreams come true next week at the 2015 AAU Girls’ Junior National Volleyball Championships in Orlando, Florida.

One of her ultimate dreams is to play the sport she loves in college and this is the perfect chance for her to get noticed by college recruiters. With over 2,200 teams and more than 27,000 athletes participating, this event is tagged as the largest volleyball tournament in the world by the Guinness Book of World Records. Over 400 college coaches from around the country will be scouting out the next college volleyball superstar and Schwegman hopes to be one of them.

Schwegman started playing volleyball when she was 11 and never looked back. This will be her sixth year attending the AAU Volleyball National Championships and she looks forward to it all year!

“It is a privilege to attend Nationals and compete with and against the most talented and extraordinary athletes in this sport,” she gushed. “Nationals are a time to celebrate the culmination of a season and the accomplishments of a team while partaking in an experience that is simply incredible and memorable every year!”

No matter what happens after the AAU Girls’ Junior National Volleyball Championships next week, Schwegman plans on continuing the Teen Hearts for Haiti initiative after she graduates high school. She is currently looking at universities with excellent academics (and a volleyball team, of course).Schwegman adds that she wants more than ‘simply a four year experience’ while she is at college.

Schwegman also hopes to join the missionary trip next time, most likely next spring. But most importantly, she has learned that “there truly is no greater gift than giving yourself and that there is no greater reward than knowing your efforts (no matter how small) made a difference to someone.”

“After seeing the pictures of the beautiful children holding up skirts and dresses and wearing their bracelets, I learned something I will never ever forget.  No matter who we are or where we are from, we all smile in the same language. I am forever changed.”

And you have changed the lives of so many, Erica. Thank you for all that you do and the AAU wishes you the best at Nationals and beyond!

 

 

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