This is the holiday season and a time of giving.
St. Thomas Aquinas boys basketball coach Sean Reilly has been giving his time and effort in Cuba, as well as other Latin American countries.
“I oversee the school’s mission trip program,” said Reilly, who has coached the Saints for 11 years. “Our students have been involved in great charity work all over the United States as well as Latin America.”
Reilly, a New York City native, started going to Cuba about three years ago and expects to return there this spring.
“We have more water projects, plus we have been asked to help build a new church,” he said. “Plus one organization we work with has a farm operating to help feed the poor, and I have meeting to procure the facilities for sports camps.”
The veteran Saints coach has been involved in sports camps all over Latin America. One of his junior players, Adam Kutney, helped him with a clinic in Guatemala.
Reilly said the Cuban society is changing.
“It is changing, but slowly,” Reilly said. “Churches, which have been virtually absent for over 50 years, are beginning to reopen. The population is slowly reacquainting with church practices.”
Reilly was asked to develop some strategies to get youth and adults to listen.
“We came up with a sports evangelization model,” he said. “Baseball and soccer are huge in Cuba. Basketball is played, but not to the same degree.”
Reilly said there is a successful soccer evangelization model in Venezuela.
“We are trying to learn from it and not having to reinvent the wheel,” he said.
Another problem Reilly has seen in Cuba is the water.
“We have been involved in a clean-water initiative in Cuba,” he said. “Cholera is a constant threat to the population.
“We have installed, thanks to the generosity of business professionals here in Kansas, water purification systems in churches, hospitals and community centers.
“I have witnessed first-hand how the clean water systems have improved life in communities. I am so thankful that I have been offered the opportunity to share a little bit of Kansas kindness in Cuba.”