Crusaders' Benitez having busy summer

New sponsorship helping student on and off the soccer field
Jul. 26, 2013 @ 05:01 AM

Grace Christian student Joel Benitez has had a busy summer break between doing mission work in Guatemala and preparing for his senior soccer season as a Crusader.

For his work on and off the field, Benitez became the first Crusader awarded a Student Athletic Sponsorship for Summer Camps and Mission Outreach by Sanford's Wayne Smith Financial Services on Monday.

The company has been a longtime booster member and supporter of Grace Christian's athletics programs and this new sponsorship is another way to reward a Crusader for his or her work in the classroom, community and playing field, said company president and founder Wayne Smith.

"We want to be supporters of athletics, as well as emphasize the importance of academics. Plus, we want to select someone who represents themselves and the school with good moral character and who is a positive role model to their peers. We look for a well-rounded student athlete," Smith said.

Benitez was part of a team from Grace Chapel Church which traveled to Guatemala to do mission work. The group did various jobs, including building and repairing homes and sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ.

"The mission trip was a life-changing event for me," Benitez said.

Also thanks to the sponsorship, Benitez will be going to a high school preseason soccer camp hosted by the North American Soccer League's Carolina RailHawks in Cary. Benitez and the Crusaders, trying to build on winning the Carolina Christian Conference season and tournament titles, then reaching the NCISAA state quarterfinals last season, will start their season in August.

Chris Pratt, Grace Christian's assistant principal, athletic director and head boys' soccer coach, recommended Benitez for the sponsorship.

"Joel has exemplified great work ethics both on and off the field and has carried himself with the good Christian character which we emphasize to our students," Pratt said.