Recent Lake Central graduate Maxwell Hill wanted to create something on his own.
He was a junior in high school and an avid member of the high school's National Honor Society, so naturally he volunteered at church and school events. As much as Hill said he enjoyed volunteering for National Honor Society and helping others, he still had the mindset of pursuing an idea of his own.
Little did he know that an idea would be brought right to him.
Hill’s dad, John, is good friends with Wilbur C. Milhouse, the president and CEO of Milhouse Engineering & Construction.
Milhouse is contracted by companies in Nigeria to build power grids.
While the engineering company was building one of the grids, one of the workers noticed many kids playing soccer — some with shoes and some without. Even those with shoes didn’t have the nicest pairs.
When Wilbur returned, he told the story to John and Max. Hill's dad brought up an idea of donating old soccer cleats as a great resume builder.
“I said, ‘Yeah, that would look great, but you know these kids have the same passion for soccer as me, if not more,’” Max Hill said. “They were out there in less gear than I had at my disposal, so I wanted to get them what I had.”
Max Hill played soccer for 14 years and was a member of the Indians soccer team his sophomore and junior years. He brought up an idea to his soccer coach to collect soccer cleats, shin guards, etc. and send them to Nigeria. Hill collected cleats from the boys and girls soccer teams and had about 20 cleats by the end of his junior year.
The shipping process didn’t quite fit Milhouse’s schedule, so Hill had time to collect more cleats. He also used that time to think of a name.
Around the 2017 holiday season, Hill started collecting more cleats from his peers, noticing that it wasn’t just soccer players giving him cleats. Baseball, softball, football and track and field athletes began giving Hill old cleats, changing Hill’s idea for his brand name.
“I was trying to do something soccer, but then I realized kids outside of soccer wanted to donate,” Hill said. “So, I was thinking about more generic cleats and wanted something that flowed nicely, like Africleat.”
In addition to the name Africleat, Hill also thought of a motto — C.L.E.T.E. Standing for clean, laundered, equipped, transport and enjoy.
At the end of this year’s school year, Hill did one last call for cleats before finalizing his shipment.
“I donated to him because I have accumulated numerous pairs of cleats, many of which I have outgrown, that could be touched up to serve a greater purpose rather than sitting in my house waiting to be thrown away,” said 2018 Lake Central graduate Kyle Orciuch, who will be a freshman goalie on Stanford University's men's soccer team in the fall.
Hill ended up with about 80 pairs in total. He washed and dried all the cleats and logged them in categories such as men or women, the size and what sport cleat it was.
Hill made the trip to Milhouse’s office in Chicago last week to drop off Africleat’s first donation. The gear will be shipped to Milhouse’s office in Enugu, Nigeria.
Overall, the shipment had more than 100 cleats because Milhouse partnered with Major League Soccer team Chicago Fire to add to the total.
Milhouse also sponsored its second annual soccer shoe drive in September. Then, on Thanksgiving, Milhouse delivered the donations to the Igwe Charles Ugwu, chief of the Awhum community in Nigeria.
“For the children of Nigeria, soccer is more than a sport. It is a part of their culture. Thousands of children play daily, many of whom have never played in soccer shoes,” Dawn Milhouse, the co-founder of Milhouse Charities, said in a statement.
Wilbur added in a statement: “It makes me happy to be able to help people and improve lives. I am proud of Max for actively doing the same."
Wilbur also is a co-founder of Milhouse Charities.
Hill is set to major in engineering at Purdue.
Even though his summer will be filled with orientation and trying to get everything he needs for his first year of college, Hill is making efforts to set up collection centers at local soccer facilities in the Region. He and his dad are also working on creating a webpage, so people can donate online.
“I don’t think many people our age have the capacity to take action in order to help disadvantaged people in remote nations,” Orciuch said. “The fact that he is making this effort shows a selfless mindset and a commitment to give an opportunity to kids in third-world nations to experience the beautiful game.”
Hill said he now has an interest in a minor in entrepreneurship because he wants to keep Africleat alive and not just limit it to Northwest Indiana. He also aspires to travel to Nigeria.
“I want to bring Africleat down to West Lafayette and the Indianapolis area,” Hill said. “I’m hoping to further this with my education, meet new people and bring in peers to help expand this idea.”