The small border town of Agua Prieta is a mere 132 miles by car from Tucson.
That rather minute distance seems substantially greater when it comes to staples of sporting life for the town’s younger residents.
Agua Prieta’s soccer pitches are grass-free patches of dirt that billow at a lancing gust of wind, far from the forest green swaths of Bermuda and Rye that litter the parks and recreational spaces of Southern Arizona.
It was that dichotomy that stood out to longtime Catalina Foothills football coach Jeff Scurran on a trip south of the border earlier this year.
Scurran was struck by the town’s primitive playing surfaces, and the lack of uniforms or supplies for the town’s youth soccer players.
He set out to do whatever he could to help, organizing equipment drives around Tucson, collecting everything from soccer balls to shin guards, shorts, socks and cleats for the bus drive to Mexico City for the National Youth Soccer Championship in August.
He also set up an online fundraiser through GoFundMe in May with the goal of raising $5,000 for the town’s five- and six-year-old soccer team, which won the Sonoran State Championship.
Scurran said his goal in launching the fundraiser was to make sure each of the team’s players travelled to the Mexican capital with confidence.
“I wanted to make sure they didn’t get to Mexico City and feel that they didn’t belong there,” Scurran said.
Scurran, a life long psychiatrist, wanted to do everything in his power to give the ragtag group of Sonoran youth a fighting chance in the national tournament, against well-funded club teams from across the Central American nation.
He was introduced to the youth soccer team by longtime friend and Douglas native Magaly Moreno—who works with a local nonprofit along the border.
“I didn’t have any idea what I could do at first,” Scurran said. “But I met [Magaly] for lunch and she said, ‘You know, most of these kids have never had new equipment ever.’ And so, I went down there and was introduced to the kids and it tugged at my heart.”
A local hero
That trip lit a fire inside Scurran, rallying former players and lifelong friends to his fundraiser. He’s raised $3,452 as of Thursday, July 5, and said he’s been thrilled with the response so far.
He’s working in tandem with Moreno’s charity, Ponte en Sus Zapatos, which serves those in need in Mexico.
Moreno said watching Scurran’s dedication to those in need has been fantastic, with his unrelenting energy providing a better future for the town’s youth.
“He’s had a great impact here in Agua Prieta locally,” Moreno said. “Because as it is, government does not help the sports department. That’s why we’ve done what we’ve done, because I think that sports are very important for a child as they grow up. And I’m very thankful for what he’s done for these kids, and what he continues to do without asking for anything in return. He’s become very loved in a short period of time here in Agua Prieta.”
Scurran said he’s thrilled to have the opportunity to help a noble cause like this, along with collecting donations for the town’s women’s softball team.
He hopes these donations are the first of many for the region’s youth sports teams, and that the future will be bright for athletes on both sides of the border.
“I didn’t go looking for this,” he said. “But it found me, and I enjoy it and I’m going to do the best I can to do what I can do for them, you know?
Scurran is hopeful the donations can help provide Sonoran children with the simple pieces of sports equipment that Americans sometimes take for granted.
He longs for a day when he can travel to Agua Prieta and not see children playing baseball with cardboard strung around their hands because they can’t afford gloves.
He hopes the community will embrace his fundraising efforts, and happily discloses that he’s already received contributions from upwards of 11 countries so far.
Above all, Scurran is hopeful that his experience can open other’s eyes about the vast differences that exist to our south, and how deserving the community there is of our support.
“It’s so close by, but it’s so far away from how we have it,” he said. “And when you go down there, and you see how they do it and the smile on their faces, and how they love their children and how they do anything for them. You’ll never forget it, I guarantee.”