While some Tracy families exchange presents on Christmas Eve, Ashleigh Garcia’s family will be handing out 200 free meals at Dr. Powers Park.

Ashleigh, 11, is a striker for an under-12 team in the Pleasanton Rage Girls Soccer Club. Over the summer, she was selected to join the Rage Leadership Academy, a group of 20 girls from among the 2,000 club members.

As part of the leadership program, Ashleigh has to plan and complete a community service project.

“I wanted to do a project that would have a big impact on the community, a big impact on the people it helped and a big impact on me,” Ashleigh said.

She decided to raise money to pay for meals for people who might be hungry. She picked Texas Roadhouse to provide the food because her team has had fundraisers with the restaurant before.

“The project had to be done by the end of the year, so why not make it a Christmas meal?” she said. “There are some people that don’t have that Christmas Eve feel. I wanted to give them something special on Christmas Eve.”

Ashleigh’s goal was $750, enough to buy 100 meals.

She started by asking for donations or pledges for every goal she scored in the four games she was scheduled to play between Nov. 14 and Dec. 12. Of those four games, weather and her commitment to a regional team forced her to miss two, and she scored one goal between the two remaining games.

Ashleigh added the $50 she won for her second-place essay in a contest sponsored by the Tracy Press in May, which pushed the total to $1,635. That turned out to be enough to buy 200 Christmas Eve meals.

“I didn’t know I was going to do something as big as this,” Ashleigh said. “I wanted to show people I care about their situation.”

She and her father visited Tracy Interfaith Ministries, the Larch Clover Community Center, the McHenry House Tracy Family Shelter, Emerson House and Lolly Hanson Senior Center and gave meal tickets to the administrators, who promised to hand them out to people in need of a free meal.

The meals — a choice of chicken or pork served with beans, coleslaw and bread — will be served to people holding those tickets from 3 to 5 p.m. Thursday at Dr. Powers Park.

Ashleigh’s father, Gilbert Garcia, was proud to see his daughter take on and accomplish such an ambitious project.

“How are we going to make this happen,” he said. “She has always been competitive. It’s always better to strive for more.”

Ashleigh’s family will join her in serving the holiday meals. Her brother has also recruited help from his fellow students in the International Baccalaureate academy at Tracy High.

Ashleigh said the project had taught her skills she hoped would help her become a team captain one day and eventually play for the United States national soccer team

“I learned to be self-confident and help my team be confident in themselves,” Ashleigh said.

Contact Glenn Moore at gmoore@tracypress.com or 830-4252.

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