New alum Anna Soukenik ’12 is taking her faith on the road. On June 4, Soukenik began the Ambassadors In Sport “Cycle for Hope.” The core group of 10 riders, with another 10 participating for portions of the cycle, traversed approximately 2,000 miles bicycling throughout Northern Europe. The Cycle for Hope continued for about a month, with riders covering an average of 90 miles each day.
Although she trained hard and intended to complete the full 2,000 miles, Soukenik’s journey ended early. While crossing a street in Wales, with her feet clipped into the pedals of her bike, Soukenik saw a car coming toward her. In attempting to jump off her bike, she landed on her elbow and broke it. After her injury was treated, Soukenik opted to stay on with the group as they made their way to London, traveling in the group’s support vehicle, and then came back to the States from there.
The goal of the cycle was twofold. The group hoped to spread Christ’s message at each stop along the way while also raising awareness and funds for Ambassadors In Sport’s Hope Academies, which are located in Africa and minister to disadvantaged youth as well as prisoners.
The cycle participants, in addition to being committed cyclists, are also soccer players and used the universal language of soccer, the world’s most popular sport, to spread their message. The trek began in Portadown in Northern Ireland. From there, the group biked to Dublin and then ferried to Wales. They continued the cycle to London, Amsterdam and on into Germany. The next stop was Prague and the cycle finished in Krakow, Poland. At each stop, the group partnered with local churches and hosted a soccer clinic. The clinic featured specific drills and activities designed to help spread God’s message and encourage teamwork, trust and responsibility. During the clinic, someone shared his or her inspiring faith story. The group spent nights staying with host families, sleeping in tents or on church floors.
Soukenik became involved in Ambassadors In Sport three years ago when the group hosted a soccer camp in her town. Her family hosted coaches from Northern Ireland and Brazil. She gained so much from the experience that she wanted to become a part of the organization. During the summers of 2010 and 2011, Soukenik participated in Ambassadors In Sport’s playing and coaching tours. The playing tours have taken her throughout Europe as the group played adult teams in Prague and youth teams in Germany and Amsterdam, sharing their mission along the way both on and off the field. The coaching tours have taken her around the U.S. as the participants hosted weeklong soccer camps for children.
During her time at Gilmour, Soukenik was a member of the Varsity Soccer team for three years, serving as team captain as a senior. She was named Team Offensive Player of the Year and was named First Team All-Greater Cleveland Conference after totaling eight goals and six assists for 22 points. She was also involved in the school’s Diversity Forum and Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD) and received the prestigious Brother Robert Kelly Award for outstanding student service.
This fall, Soukenik headed to Gordon College, located about 25 miles outside of Boston in Wenham, Mass. She plays soccer there and also hopes to continue her involvement with Ambassadors In Sport. She says of her experience, “I’ve learned about a real faith in Jesus and it’s given me a joy that I haven’t experienced before.” She adds, “I really enjoy these opportunities because they give me a chance to share and I know that no matter how crazy they seem, like cycling across Europe, no matter how challenging it is, I know that God will be with me and I’ll be able to make it through.”