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By Judy O'gara

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They’ve been doing this since Middle School, but four Franklin teens, who’ve been friends since 3rd grade, have kept on hosting Soccer for Smiles, because they can help their community just by letting kids do something they love – play soccer – during the week of February vacation. Alexa Frongillo, 17, her brother Cobi, 16, Colin Berg, 17 and Tim Larowe, 16, are organizing the fifth Soccer for Smiles tournament, to take place February 18th, 19th and 20th. The event, which welcomes all children from Franklin and surrounding towns, will raise money for the Random Smile Project (www.randomsmile.org).
This is our fifth tournament, but the fourth raising money for the Random Smile Project,” says Alexa Frongillo. “The first year, we raised money for (victims of) the Haiti earthquake. “Her brother Cobi adds that after the first year’s success, the kids wanted to continue the event. They chose their second charity because “we liked how they were local. We know where the money is going, and we can see impact it has on community.”
The Franklin-based, all-volunteer Random Smiles project website describes the organization as forming a “bridge of support for people going through difficult times. “Their Facebook page chronicles projects from building wheelchair ramps in Franklin and other communities, to raising funds for families hit by a sudden illness.
“They give Christmas presents, help build ramps, give gym equipment to local schools and even helped build the local dog park,” says Larowe. His friend Colin Berg adds “I felt like, since we can make a personal connection, and since it’s not a mainline charity, we can more of an impact.”
An Alexa note that she also thinks it’s important “to realize that there are people all around me that need help.”
The idea for the tournament came when Colin and his Mom were talking about how they might help victims of the Haiti earthquake. “It started out as the Hope for Haiti Soccer Tournament,” says Colin, whose Dad owns the field and donated the use of the space.
The effort was well received.
“The first year, we raised $2,500, and the goal was $1,000,” says Alexa.
“We were surprised and really shocked at how successful the first year was, and it’s just growing,” says Colin.
“The next year, we raised $4,000, and we gave part of our donations to a young girl who’d had a seizure – she has a foundation, Team Isabella,” says Alexa. “The next year, we raised $5,200, and last year was the most successful – we raised $5,600 and had over 180 participants,” she adds, noting that some of the players came all the way from Brookline. This year’s fundraising goal is $6,500.
“It was great to see kids helping people in need in their community,” says Alexa.
All children in grades 1-12 are invited to participate in Soccer for Smiles, either as a team of 3-4 ($100 registration fee), or individually ($25 registration fee). All teams will play in a round-robin style tournament within a 2-hour time frame. Exact times for gender and age groups are still being determined.
“Generally, high school is on the 18th,” says Colin, “girls are on the 19th and boys are the 20th.”
Tim adds, “It’s fun, we get out there and we are the refs, I guess. We kind of watch over the games” for the all-day events. Their siblings and parents also lend a much-appreciated hand, he says.
“The Franklin soccer school has done a whole lot in helping us,” says Cobi.
“It’s been a total collective team effort. All our families have been generous with their time, and everyone really plays a part,” says Colin.
This year, Alexa says, they aim to make it the best year. Tim notes the tournament has begun seeking sponsorship from local businesses, adding their names to the t-shirts. “Their donations really help us a lot,” he says.
lot,” he says.
The deadline to register is February 8th. For information and registration forms, visit www. Franklinsoccerschool.com/tournament, and for any questions, email [email protected] or call (508) 528-1339 and ask for Alexa.

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