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Wednesday, May 05, 2010

SHS receives new Riddell helmets from Canadian businessman

Samoana High School has received a shipment of 60 brand new Riddell ‘Revolution’ football helmets courtesy of a businessman in Toronto, Canada, who was prompted to donate to the local high school after watching CBS’ 60 Minutes ‘Football Island’ in January this year.

After the 60 Minutes segment aired, Samoa News received a number of inquiries from parties wishing to donate to local football program but the request from Toronto businessman Mario Elia— was the first e-mail received by Samoa News, prompted by the 60 Minutes piece.

Administrators and football coaches are ecstatic with the donation that they say will help to improve Samoana football, increase athletes’ chances of a future in the game and ensure safety.

School Principal Rev. Simon Mageo says the helmets are “top of the line” and the donation has left him speechless.

“What else can I say … you know, I’m speechless … to have it come from someone who has no affiliation with Samoa or Samoana High School,” he told Samoa News. “All that it took was that touching piece done by 60 Minutes.”

Mageo says Elia, a sports fanatic, told him his heart went out to the local players when he saw the fields they play on and the equipment they use.

“It’s an answer to our prayers— all of these great donations we receive from people,” he added. Mageo notes that the helmets are Riddell Revolution helmets which are “lighter, safer.”

Riddell is the official helmet of the NFL and according to the Riddell Web site, the Revolution was introduced in 2002, the first major football helmet innovation in 25 years.

It points out that “since that time, more than half a million youth, high school, college and pro players have made the switch to the Riddell Revolution, the standard against which all football helmets are measured.

Riddell says an extensive long-term study by the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center was published in the February 2006 issue of Neurosurgery and it said players wearing the Riddell Revolution® football helmet were 31% less likely to suffer a concussion than athletes who wore traditional or standard football helmets.

The helmets alone are worth between $10,000- $13,000.

The 60 helmets, shipped in seven boxes, were delivered to Samoana yesterday by Transam Shipping Co. representative Timena Tiatia who told Samoa News via e-mail that the seven boxes contain brand new helmets straight from the manufacturers and the items can accommodate up to two teams.

Tiatia presented the helmets on behalf of Elia.

“Mr. Mario Elia has no ties to the territory but his heart was drawn by the determination reflected in the short clipping on 60 Minutes which drove him to come up with this donation,” said Tiatia.

Elia wanted his donation to go directly to Samoana who won the Varsity football title last November. The championship game in which Samoana defeated Tafuna 7-6 was covered by the CBS crew.

As reported by 60 Minutes, the game was postponed from earlier in the day because Sharks quarterback Tavita Neemia had to bury his father before he could play and the win was naturally a very emotional one for Tavita and his team.

Tavita, who will be a senior in the fall, was the first Samoana player to handle one of the helmets from Elia, after students unloaded the Transam shipment off a truck.

Junior Varsity Football Head Coach Meauta Mageo began their three-week spring training yesterday for his JV squad with more than 40 players going through runs, drills and exercises on the rocky field that was also featured on 60 Minutes.

“It’s going to make a huge impact on the players in Samoa,” said the SHS JV Head Coach, who played for Samoana years ago. He graduated from Samoana in 1984 and played college ball at Southern Oregon University. Mageo returned to Samoa recently and it is his first year teaching and coaching.

He notes that it was football that allowed him to get an education and now he is back where he started— but pushing young athletes to get ahead through the sport of football.

“Coming back to Samoa 20 years later, the equipment is still the same when I played,” he told Samoa News. “Safety is first and foremost … to see this donation for Samoana High School … we are so excited to play now we have the proper equipment and to see this donation, I’m ecstatic that the kids will finally play with nice, equipment.”

Meauta says Elia’s donation will go a long way in improving the game and safety for their players.

“He (Elia) saw the equipment we were playing with was really outdated … thanks from the bottom of our hearts,” said Meauta.

When Samoa News asked Elia in January what moved him to donate, he said: “You live in a beautiful place, but I understand that two thirds of your population lives below the poverty level.”

“A huge reliance is placed on the two canning factories, but now it’s reduced to one factory,” he said. “The negative impact of losing that factory is monumental, I sincerely hope that StarKist remains a strong presence.”

Elia, who makes his home in Toronto with his wife and two children Kiri and Cody, says he is a sports fanatic, whose first love is ice hockey, the national sport there— and he loves football. He explains they have the CFL (Canadian Football League) and the NFL, widely watched by Canadians.

At the football level for American Samoa, he says “there is a lack of proper equipment and proper fields to practice on.”

“Yet despite the lack of those things there’s a spirit that I saw and that I think everyone watching 60 Minutes saw,” Elia said. “Yes, size and strength are important, but as it was said, ‘it’s not the size, it’s the heart.’ … that’s what came through.”

He told Samoa News “not every one can make it to the NFL” but he would just like to help out “in a small way by providing proper helmets to those boys who clearly are aspiring for greater things in their lives.”

Elia contacted a helmet manufacturer in the US, to secure the equipment. While he did not ask for help, Elia says the helmet company and a shipping company offered breaks.

He hopes his donation “may go further to encourage others to help out.”

Principal Mageo, who notes the last time they ever received new helmets was in 2004, said the players will begin using the Riddell helmets during spring practice, throughout the summer and in the next football season.

“I e-mailed him (Elia) … I couldn’t thank him enough and to express our appreciation for his wanting to give from his heart, especially for our kids,” he said. “He’s heaven sent.”

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