SLO mom tackles athletic supplies problem

After watching a “60 Minutes” segment featuring American Samoan football players who use secondhand athletic equipment that wouldn’t meet standards in the United States, Terri Jacques, 47, of San Luis Obispo decided to coordinate an athletic equipment drive and send the donations to American Samoa.

On Feb. 20 and 21, a container will be at San Luis Obispo High School, available to be filled with football helmets and pads, as well as volleyball and baseball equipment including nets, cleats, balls, bats, gloves and helmets.

When Jacques contacted Motu L. Seui Jr., the deputy chief of staff from American Samoa’s Office of the Governor, he told her in an e-mail they would gladly take whatever she could send. He also asked her if she could receive shipments from across the United States since others who also wanted to donate athletic equipment had contacted him.

Jacques is expecting to receive shipments from Georgia and North Carolina. She also contacted Riddell, a helmet manufacturer in Georgia, to see if they have discounted helmets. If any money is donated at the equipment drive, she will use it to purchase helmets.

There are more than 30 players in the NFL from American Samoa, which is home to 63,000 people. It is a United States territory located in the South Pacific Ocean, and is part of the Samoan Islands chain. In September, an 8.3-magnitude earthquake hit American Samoa, followed by a tsunami, which killed 192 people in American Samoa, Samoa and Tonga.

The nation is still rebuilding and in need of proper athletic equipment, according to Jacques. “Just like Haiti’s earthquake that was so devastating and also Hurricane Katrina, help is a two-step process,” Jacques said. “They need food, water and medicine immediately, but once the rebuilding starts, we forget that they’ve lost everything.”

Jacques, a mother of two athletic sons, understands the importance of being involved in high school activities. She encourages anyone with old athletic equipment in their garage to donate it at the equipment drive.

When her husband, Ken Jacques, owner of Evaki Importers, talked about the high cost of sending one box, he decided to order a 20-foot container. They hope to fill it at the February athletic equipment drop-off, which will be run by Jacques’ son Stuart, 17, a junior at San Luis Obispo High.

Ken Jacques is also taking care of the paperwork and customs requirements needed to get the goods to American Samoa.