It’s rare to see a teenager give up their weekend to volunteer and help others, but it’s even more rare to see one do it on her own birthday.
Hart girls soccer senior defender Jessica Deegan is that rare teenager. She turned 18 on Saturday and rather than throw a party with all her friends, she chose to give her time to people in need.
“I feel like I’m too old to have a party and I’m just not into the party thing,” she said. “It’s a fun thing to do with friends. I think celebrating birthdays is about being together with people that you care about, so why not do that while helping others out?”
The Hart defense has stopped attacks from their opponents on the pitch, but on Saturday Deegan rallied her whole team to help stop child hunger.
She traveled with her teammates to Sylmar to give two hours of their day to the Children’s Hunger Fund. The girls got together and packaged food to be sent to families in need all over the world. This time, their help went to the Philippines.
“There’s an assembly line and everyone goes down and you put food into these boxes that eventually will be shipped across the country,” Deegan said. “We packed like six tons of food to go to the Philippines.”
Deegan was inspired to spend her birthday at the Children’s Hunger Fund by a family friend. She accompanied her brother’s friend’s mom, Glenda Lencer, during her birthday around Christmas to help wrap gifts for families in need as the holidays approached.
“It’s fun, it’s easy and if you get a group of people to go it’s a great time, so why not do it?” Deegan said.
Deegan said the opportunity brought her team closer together. They were able to strengthen their bond off the field, not only as teammates but as friends too.
“It was bonding for the team as well as a feel-good thing, to give back,” she said. “We were laughing the whole time. When we get an opportunity to step off and do something different, we were able to talk about other stuff other than soccer, so it was a really good way to get to know each other a little bit better.”
The Indians have been one of the toughest teams in the Foothill League this year, as well as the last six, with only one loss on the season overall and one tie in league play. However, anything to make them better doesn’t hurt, especially in the chase for a state title.
“Chemistry is always an important thing for a team,” Deegan said. “If you trust someone off the field, it’s a lot easier to trust them on the field. Any time we can get to know each other is going to make us a better team in the long run.”
But to her, having this opportunity with her teammates was more than soccer or birthdays. To her, it was about doing something that was bigger than herself with the people she cares about the most.
“Do whatever you want for your birthday, but if you get the chance, bring people together to do something that you can give to someone else,” Deegan said. “It’s your birthday, but you can always do something good with it.”
The Children’s Hunger Fund in Sylmar gives Californians an opportunity to volunteer every Thursday, Friday and Saturday in two-hour increments. Volunteers can donate their time from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. on Thursdays, 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. or 1:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Fridays and 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. on Saturdays.
All volunteering opportunities must be booked in advance either over the phone or on the Children’s Hunger Fund website.