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RMA joins drive to outfit athletes, people of Gambia

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BY JESSIE H. NUNERY
Section Editor

Saturday, March 17, 2018

The area's soccer connection to one of the poorer countries in the world is much closer than many might know.

The Rocky Mount Academy athletics department is one of the more recent organizations to partner with local resident Kimberlea Bauer's non-profit agency, BundasKids, to send used jerseys to Gambia.

The west Africa country, which is the fourth poorest in the nation, recently had four full sets of Rocky Mount Academy basketball jerseys donated to BundasKids. The Nash County Parks & Recreation department also donated 35 soccer balls in what Bauer hopes is a continuing bridge between the community and a country thousands of miles away.

"I fell in love with the kids over there," Bauer said. "You see them, and it pulls on your heartstrings. You really feel like you can make a difference."

Bauer's relationship with the country has developed over the years by her connection to N.C. Wesleyan men's soccer coach Frankie Taal and some of his former and current players who are from Gambia.

In being an unofficial "team mom" to the program, Bauer learned about Gambia and was invited to visit.

Once there, she saw a need.

In four trips to the country, Bauer, a nurse, has helped aid the country with everything from used sports gear, clothing and school supplies.

The latest donation from Rocky Mount Academy is special because her two children, Gillian (15) and Gavin (12) attend the school.

"It has made a huge difference in the life of the kids," Eagles athletics director Gayle High said. "They thought it was really cool."

The Rocky Mount sports area has been instrumental, with donations coming from entities including the Harrison Family YMCA, the Rocky Mount Parks & Recreation Department, to name a few. There also have been local businessses who have financially supported the cause by donating money for the shipping of donations, which run $140 a barrel. One can even sponsor a youth soccer team in Gambia for just $400.

Bauer pays for each of her trips out of pocket and personally delivers the items to residents.

She has been adopted during her visits by the Bundas village, which is where the name of the 501c3 originated.

Her garage is full of gear, and that is a good thing.

Where the local sports community plays on fields of fine-cut grass and turf, Gambians don't have the luxury.

Bauer has a picture of a dirt field—full of eager young boys—who are playing on a makeshift goal. The crossbar and posts are wood, and there is no net in goal.

Gambia still loves soccer, and its growing number of elite professional athletes in the sport is a testament that no matter the humble beginnings, there is talent in the nation of just more than a million people.

"We're just trying to bring hope and resources to let them know people care," Bauer said. “It's such a small country that doesn't get on the radar."

Bauer envisions more area schools and sports teams becoming a part of the BundasKids effort.

There are only so many old sports items that can thrown or stored away, especially when they instead could go to those with a need..

"If they are willing to donate it, I'm willing to send it," Bauer said.

Those interested on donating can call 252-903-7713 or email bundaskids@yahoo.com.

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