Niyakko Rush: Can You Help Make Refugee Soccer Team's Dream for Wheels Come True?

The Niyakko Rush in brand-new uniforms, as seen on their Facebook page.
The Niyakko Rush in brand-new uniforms, as seen on their Facebook page.

This week's cover story, "A Sporting Chance," traces the rise of the Niyakko Rush, a grassroots youth soccer club made up primarily of refugees living in a single apartment house in Aurora. Many of the players have come from countries ravaged by political and military upheaval, including Myanmar, Somalia and Nepal -- Niyakko is a Burmese word for "brother" -- and their journeys to the United States have been long and arduous, involving dangerous border crossings and years in makeshift relocation camps.

But it's a trip that can be measured in minutes that the group is primarily concerned about these days. Without reliable motorized transportation, Niyakko's scheduled games have been somewhat limited this past summer (they've been known to jog a mile to their practice field) and could well dwindle further in the coming bad weather.

See also: These Young Refugees Know All About Winning and Losing -- They Just Want to Play

That's why Niyakko's volunteer coach, Jason Hicks, recently launched a Start Some Good crowdfunding campaign with the express aim of raising $5,000 -- about the amount Hicks figures he'll need to buy a good used passenger van to get his players to the game on time.

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Hicks started out carpooling his players to matches last fall; but the team has since doubled in size and now is approaching three dozen players from six countries. Although the group has occasional access to a church van, Niyakko definitely needs another set of wheels. The club has managed to raise some funds through car washes and such, but Hicks figures it's going to take the magic of the Internet to get his guys the rest of the way.

As he explains on the Start Some Good site: "We set our 'Tipping Point' at $2,500 because we have found vehicles on Craigslist for under that price, but they would not be the solution to our problem. If a van or bus is less than $2,500, there's probably a good reason for that price: either very high miles, needs work, or has less seating than what we truly need. By reaching our goal of $5,000, we should be able to purchase a used eleven-passenger van or school bus and this is what we really need."

As of this writing, the team is more than halfway to the halfway point, having raised $1,496 through Start Some Good. To see more of the Niyakko Rush in action, check out our slideshow.

Here's a video introduction to Niyakko Rush featured on the fundraising page.


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