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South African Summer Citrus Honors Eight U.S. Youth as 2012 Soccer Stars

Players demonstrate courage, imagination, commitment, determination, success.

Philadelphia, Pa. – August 13, 2012 – Eight youth soccer players from across the country have been selected as the 2012 Summer Citrus Soccer Star award winners ( The youth are from diverse backgrounds and different parts of the country, yet all share a love of soccer, a spirit of leadership and determination on and off the soccer field, and have demonstrated commitment to their teams, families and communities.

The award was established by the South Africa Western Cape Citrus Producers Forum (WCCPF), a consortium of about 350 South African Citrus growers who export citrus to the U.S.

“When we decided to bring our citrus products to the United States, it took courage, imagination, commitment and unbeatable determination and resulted in success,” said Suhanra Conradie, CEO of the WCCPF. “With our ongoing partnership with US Youth Soccer, we have seen these same characteristics exhibited by many of the players involved in this sport.”

Soccer and oranges go hand-in-hand, with citrus products being the snack of choice at soccer games across the country. WCCPF has been a long-time supporter and partner with US Youth soccer, supplying fruit for regional and national tournaments each summer.

Soccer Star award winners were selected from nominations submitted in the form of essays. Entrants were asked to share personal experiences demonstrating how they have displayed courage, imagination, commitment, unbeatable determination and success. Entries were received from all regions of the U.S., including Alaska and Hawaii.

“We are honored to recognize these eight youth who represent the best of American spirit, courage and leadership,” Conradie said. “The South Africa citrus growers have shown these qualities repeatedly by not only exceeding but also maintaining the rigorous U.S. standards for quality and safety. In like fashion, these eight youth have maintained strenuous schedules and demonstrated incredible determination and commitment to achieve their goals and a great deal of success as athletes and students. Our selection task was difficult, as we had a large number of impressive entrants. We thank and congratulate all of the entrants for their achievements and wish them continued success.”

The South African citrus export program began in 1999 after a small group of citrus growers realized the need and importance of establishing an export program to the United States. Through determination and leadership, the group adheres to and exceeds the rigorous standards set by the USFDA for exports. WCCPF continues to exceed these standards and maintains the highest levels of quality and safety for fruit shipped to U.S. consumers. South Africa is the world’s second largest exporter of citrus, producing 60 percent of the Southern Hemisphere’s citrus. Since the U.S. export program began, South African citrus exports to the United States have grown from 50 tons in 1999 to more than 40,000 tons shipped annually to U.S. consumers.

The following youth were selected as Summer Citrus Soccer Stars:

Northeast, Region I (CT, DE, ME, MD, MA, NH, NJ, NY, PA, RI, VT, VA, WV):

Taylor Ross, 15, Burrillville, RI, plays for the Bayside F.C. Bolts. As a member of two soccer teams, Ross has shown incredible determination and commitment, often missing school activities and social events to attend practices and games six days a week. At a young age, she volunteered to take a penalty kick in a game, learning that accepting and facing challenges can help her overcome fears on and off the soccer field.

Carson Ruhland, 10, Poughkeepsie, NY, is a member of the Lagrange Titans. Ruhland displayed courage, overcoming a fear of public speaking to represent his school each year at a speech meet. Through determination and practice, recently he earned a second-place award. On and off the field, he shows commitment to his teammates, family and community. He serves as a volunteer coach to younger children as part of his church’s soccer program.

Midwest, Region II (IL, IN, IA, KS, KY, MI, MN, MO, NE, ND, OH, SD, WI):

Grace Brown, 13, Iowa City, IA, plays for the Alliance Speed. Brown stood up to students at her school who were bullying a classmate with a learning disability. As a soccer player, she is determined to meet her goals. When she received an invitation to play soccer in Europe, she raised the money to fund her trip. She has given her all on the field, playing an entire game when her team did not have enough subs and providing emotional encouragement and support to fellow teammates throughout the game.

Christopher Gibson, 13, West Des Moines, IA, plays for the West Des Moines Select Royal Team. A native of Haiti, Gibson spent his early years in an orphanage. After adoption by an American family, he came to the US at the age of 10. He displayed compassion and a commitment to service on a recent visit to Haiti when he provided food to homeless children. His determination led him to train in order to improve his speed and achieve the goal of earning his school’s “Presidential Fitness Award.” He has maintained a positive attitude in the face of adversity and challenges on and off the soccer field.

South, Region III (AL, AR, FL, GA, LA, MS, NC, OK, SC, TN, TX ):

Shelby Meckstroth, 17, New Orleans, LA, is a member of the Yankee United Blaze. At the age of 15, Meckstroth exhibited incredible courage and composure when her father suffered a heart attack. At the time, she and her father were on the sidelines at her twin brother’s soccer game several hours from home. She sought help to get her father to a hospital from another parent on the sidelines, staying with her father and providing necessary health information to medical professionals during her father’s treatment. Meckstroth traveled to Nicaragua this summer to help teach young girls soccer and leadership skills as a volunteer with “Soccer Without Borders.”

Hunter Henry, 13, Warner Robins, GA, is a member of the Columbus Redstar Red soccer team. Although he was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease last year, Henry has remained committed to his team, continuing to play and practice daily, often on the same day as intensive medical treatments. An honors student at his school, Henry commits 100 percent effort on an off the field. He recently completed a year-long science project, earning a medal for his project in the engineering division of a state science competition.

Far West, Region IV (AL, AZ, CA, CO, HI, ID, MT, NV, NM, OR, UT, WA, WY):

Julian N. Carvajal, 9, Fresno, CA, plays soccer for the Mountain View Panthers. As a third grader, Julian exhibited a great deal of courage when sixth graders at his school were bullying another third grade student.  He intervened, asked the sixth graders to stop, and accompanied the other third grader to report the incident to the school principal. He displays commitment to his team, as well as his community, often volunteering at his local library and to serve food to the homeless.

Bianka Parrish, 13, Lakewood, WA, is a member of the Lady Strykerz soccer team. She has taken on a leadership role among her teammates, helping new members of the team adapt to nontraditional practice routines and serving as a unifying force. In addition to her team and school commitments, Parrish serves family and her community by volunteering at a local Veteran’s Administration hospital and assisting with the hospital’s work to deliver Girl Scout cookies to veterans around the world as part of  “Operation Cookie Drop.”


The South Africa Western Cape Citrus Producers Forum is a consortium of 350 South African growers eligible to export summer citrus to the United States. WCCPF facilitates logistical, marketing and sales support coordination of their products. Its mission is to maintain and expand its role as the preferred supplier, and to grow and ship the best summer citrus in the world to the U.S. marketplace. The WCCPF meets and exceeds USDA and USFDA protocols by rigorously adhering to its self-imposed Seal-of-Approval Guidelines, guaranteeing its citrus consistently provides superior quality that is easy to peel, seedless, nutritious and safe. For more information, visit or find South African Summer Citrus at www.facebook/summercitrus.

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