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      Soccer coach brings gifts and smiles to his native Colombia

      It's a busy time of year for Oscar Vergara.

      The longtime girls soccer coach at Bishop Ludden High School is collecting gifts to bring to homeless children in his native Colombia. Vergara says he got the idea on a trip to Colombia ten years ago when he came across some kids who had no gifts for Christmas.

      "At that time all I had to give them was two bags of lollipops, and the smiles were flowing, and I said 'we have to continue to do this' because we have been lucky we have been blessed with what we have."

      From those humble beginings "Projecto Sunrisas" - or "Project Smiles" - was born. Each year soccer players and Spanish club members from several local high schools help Vergara put the gifts together. In addition to the gifts, each child gets a handwritten card from one of Vergara's student helpers.

      Project Smiles is now bringing smiles to some of the poorest children in Colombia. For Vergara, giving is the greatest gift there is.

      "This country has given me an opportunity to have more than I really need. My dad and mom always taught me to share what I have," he says.

      Vergara heads back to Colombia next month with enough gifts for close to five hundred kids. Vergara says he hopes "Project Smiles" will continue to bring smiles to kids long into the future.

      "I hope that when I'm unable to do this, that somebody else will pick it up. If we can bring in moments of happiness and smiles to the kids faces, it just make these holidays a little brighter," he says.

      If you would like to get involved with "Project Smiles" you can e-mail Oscar Vergara at