Ben Elo Memorialized in Scholarship, Soccer Camp

The Ben Elo Soccer Camp had 153 athletes compete in 2015's program. Photo credit: Emily Metheny

When you want to set up a fund for a loved one, how do you raise money to do it? The Elo family solved this question seven years ago when they hosted the first Ben Elo Memorial Soccer Camp in Mooresville. 

“We were suggested to come to the foundation and then it was like, ok, how do we raise enough for a scholarship that will go on for a while? That’s where the idea for a soccer camp came from, specifically because he loved soccer,” said Melanie Elo, Ben's mother. “He wanted to play at Notre Dame. He wanted to play professionally. He played at a very high level, so it was kind of a natural fit to make that the fundraiser to primarily fund the scholarship but now some other things as well.”

Since that first year, the Ben Elo Memorial Soccer Camp has continued to grow from 68 participants in 2009 to more than 150 in 2015, the 7th year. 

“We couldn’t do it without the foundation,” Melanie said. “Just making sure people who give to Ben’s fund know it’s a legitimate fund, that it’s got integrity to it. It’s run by a respectable organization. That’s important as well because we spend the money like it’s not our money, like it belongs to other people, so we don’t want to waste it.”

Because the camp has been able to raised more than enough for the annual scholarship, the Elos have been able to donate the money to community organizations that deal with issues related to youth or hunger, but they have also been able to share with other organizations as donations continue to memorialize Ben's life. 

“We donate money to the Baxter YMCA in Greenwood because that’s where all of our kids started sports, so we make a donation to their financial aid program to help families with funding troubles to be able to participate,” Melanie said.

Each age bracket had a Player of the Week athlete. They are recognized at the end of the camp.
Photo credit: Emily Metheny

More Than Soccer

The Ben Elo Soccer Camp is a week-long, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. program that works with athletes from the third to the twelfth grade to develop tactical soccer skills and character.  

“In addition to fundraising, we have found that it has been really meaningful to the kids that come, the volunteers, the coaches,” Melanie said. “Many of the college coaches come back every year and those that can’t, come back the year after. They come whenever they get a chance. We’ve also had some kids be there literally every year since its inception.”

The program has graduated athletes out after their year of senior high school, but many still come back to volunteer. Melanie said the family is surprised at how the camp has brought together so many different people that feel like family now. The parent's feedback encouraged the Elos to continue the morning prayer and the stories about Ben that make the camp unique. 

“We built that camp with the feedback of Ben’s soccer coach Paul Kerridge, so he’s the director of coaching," Melanie said. "He played internationally and coached at a very high level. He comes back, that’s his gift to Ben, and his legacy is to create the agenda, the format [and] the age [groups].” 

In the morning, the athletes work on tactical skills, practicing them in the afternoon in game-like situations. 

On the final day of camp, the athletes are split into teams to compete in a World Cup tournament. Each country has a mix of younger and older athletes -- a concept that the Elos stumbled into after some rain out days during the early camp years. Originally, there was only going to be soccer Olympics, but it changed to have soccer Olympics in the morning and the World Cup in the afternoon. Since then, the Cup has become the camp's final event, giving the kids memories they will never forget. 
Team Italy pauses for a photo during the 2015 World Cup. Photo credit: Emily Metheny

Friday Funday

“The kids just absolutely loved the World Cup, so it has taken on a life of its own,” Melanie said. “If you ask 100 kids at camp, if not every 153 of them, would tell you that was their favorite day.”

Competing in halves, the younger group plays first, followed by the senior group. As a team, they dress up, color their hair, and collect points. 

“The coaches get into it, which is really fun to see, especially college coaches,” Melanie said. “They know it’s different. They know there’s a purpose and a mission that’s bigger than what they do. They act goofy and get dressed up, and it just really is an amazing day.”

College coaches from around the state come and assist with the camp. The college coaches rotate through the groups, so all the kids get to see them. Bobby Clark, the Notre Dame Coach that Ben had met and told he wanted to play for him, comes when he can, Melanie said. 

The 2015 camp was Myron Vaughn’s first year coaching at the Ben Elo Camp, and he said the decision to help was an easy one.

Vaughn, the Youth Director at the South Central Soccer Academy in Bargersville, Indiana said, “I've been fortunate enough to coach a few players that played with Ben, and they have all mentioned the camp and what it was about and a little bit about Ben himself,” Vaughn said. “For me, the opportunity to coach and being asked to do that was an easy 'yes.'”

Vaughn said his favorite part of this week was seeing the kids enjoy soccer. For the majority of the week, he coached fifth and sixth grade boys who were “awesome.”

“The hospitality is unmatched from any camp that I have done,” Vaughn said.  “They show a lot of love to these kids and definitely us coaches, so this camp just runs smoothly and well.”

Vaughn said he will miss camp and is looking forward to next year. For the remainder of the summer of 2015, Vaughn would coach at other camps.

“I can guarantee that they will not have the same love and hospitality that this camp does.” Vaughn says.

After a rainy week, the camp moved indoors where the athletes were split into teams and played in the World Cup.
Photo credit: Emily Metheny

Be Like Ben

In her work of grief ministering, Melanie said some families struggle to decide if they want to go through the process of creating a fund for a family member, but the Elos are glad they did it with the community foundation. 

“One thing that is nice about having a fund is that as people who have lost someone, you don’t want others to forget your child, so we’re glad to [...] have this fund because it gives us a chance to have Ben remembered for the kind of kid he was,” Melanie said. 

The Ben Elo Memorial Scholarship is given annually to a graduate of Mooresville High School who was a varsity athlete and volunteered in their church and community. There is an essay with a prompt for applicants to explain how they live their faith and how their faith affects how they live. The idea is drawn from the mission statement of Ben’s fund, “to live your faith to affect change act justly, love mercy, act humbly" (Micah 6:8).

“Through the community foundation, we were able to select criteria. It could be anything we define it to be, but we wanted it to be things that where indicative of Ben and his life,” Melanie said. 

“We hope when the kids win the scholarships [and] come to camp, that they grow to be a little bit better of a person,” Melanie said. “A little piece of [Ben] goes with them. That’s what made a part of it worthwhile.”
The 2015 Ben Elo Soccer Camp program photo. Photo credit: Emily Metheny

Want to help the Elos do more?

To learn more about CFMC funds or make a donation to the Benjamin Elo Memorial Fund can be made through the community foundation's website. 

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