Pope Francis’ Scholas Occurentes & the LA84 Foundation Collaborate to Launch Pelota de Trapo Program in LA County

Pope Francis’ Scholas Occurentes & the LA84 Foundation Collaborate to Launch Pelota de Trapo Program in LA County 1024 888 Supervisor Lindsey P. Horvath


September 18, 2023

Los Angeles, CAScholas Occurrentes, the foundation created by Pope Francis in 2013, announced today the launch of the Pelota de Trapo Program in Los Angeles County in partnership with the LA84 Foundation. The program will bring together high school students of all backgrounds and faiths from across Los Angeles for sports, educational and leadership experiences.

The three-year program aims to work with youth from all 88 municipalities in LA County, and promote civic participation in each community through sport. Pope Francis personally selected Los Angeles to launch the first US stage of the Pelota de Trapo Program, joining Argentina, Italy, Mozambique and Spain.

“Pope Francis acknowledged Los Angeles will become a kind of worldwide capital of sports by hosting three major global events such as Copa America 2024, the FIFA World Cup in 2026 and the 2028 Olympic Games,” said Maria Martha Barreneche, Executive Director of Scholas Occurrentes USA. “The three steps initiative focuses on building a community of young leaders in a path in which they will share personal and collective concerns, promoting understanding; acquire knowledge about common issues, emphasizing the importance of understanding before action and initiate collective action around a social
issue, cultivating civic engagement”.

When Pope Francis was a child in Buenos Aires, he played soccer with a pelota de trapo, a humble ball made of rags wrapped together. Years later after seeing children playing with similar balls around the world, it inspired Pope Francis to develop this program internationally.

The Pelota de Trapo Program will reach diverse student populations across Los Angeles. Its goals include engaging a minimum of 30 schools annually, building a network of teachers, establishing a virtual platform for increased engagement, and producing a volunteer program for collaboration with families, youth sports teams and partner organizations for support and increased growth.

Pope Francis advocates for unity, and his Pelota de Trapo Program will use the power of sports to inspire young people in our communities to live like we play,” said Renata Simril, President & CEO of the LA84 Foundation. “Our mission is to ensure all kids have access to the lifelong benefits that sports and play provide. With goals to create new connections among youth and deepen their community engagement, this program will bring communities together starting with kids. The LA84 Foundation is committed to the vision of the Pelota de Trapo Program.”

The County of Los Angeles Board of Supervisors proclaimed August 13 “Pelota de Trapo Day,” and encouraged all County departments working with youth to participate in the Pelota de Trapo Program, to facilitate community-building opportunities, and youth development through sport.

“Los Angeles County excitedly welcomes Scholas and the Pelota de Trapo education initiative to our region to cultivate leadership, civic engagement, and opportunities for encounter for young people through a love of sports and play,” said LA County Supervisor Lindsey P. Horvath, who declared August 13 as ‘Pelota de Trapo Day’ in Los Angeles County. “With the LA84 Foundation and the support of our cities, school districts, and community organizations, this beloved program will launch in the coming months, bringing Pope Francis’ vision for youth community building to the United States for the first time.”

The City of Los Angeles issued a similar proclamation honoring the Pelota de Trapo Program.

To find more photos of this event visit our Flickr here.

You can watch the video recap of the event here.


Skip to content