It was intended to be a one-day youth soccer clinic in southern West Virginia.
But before it was over, a 220-mile trip from Morgantown to Welch became much more than just kicks for West Virginia University athletes, students and leaders.
University officials including President Gordon Gee and Dr. Clay Marsh, vice president and executive dean for health sciences, would join the women's soccer team and student and staff volunteers to support the hopes and dreams of the coal country community.
"West Virginia is a very small state – 1.8 million people – and we have every problem in America," Gee told community members at a luncheon at the Sterling Drive-In. "But we are small enough that If we stack our hands and have the courage and the will, we can solve our problems. Someone from Washington (D.C.) is not going to solve it. Someone from Los Angeles is not going to solve it. We're going to solve our own problems. But we have to start somewhere. And we start right here, right now."
The McDowell County 4-H Soccer League and WVU Extension Agent Donald Reed invited the women's soccer team to take part in the clinic.
When the team arrived at the flat, grassy fields of Mount View High School, community members showered them with applause. Welch Mayor Reba Honake read a proclamation declaring it "WVU Day" in the city, and military veterans offered a 21-gun salute.
Since returning to WVU in 2014, Gee has visited McDowell County each year. He even brought the Mountaineer Marching Band down with him that summer.
"There's no place that I have visited in the three-and-half years I've been at the University that means more in terms of that confluence of opportunity and spirit and hope and inspiration than this place right here," Gee said.
Watch a video recap of the day's visit at: https://youtu.be/4MSxZGmU0DE
CONTACT: University Relations/Communications