COLUMBIA — Three young men slipped into plastic bubbles that covered them from head to thighs and stood on the goal line of an indoor soccer field waiting for the whistle to blow.
At the sound of the whistle, the three men, all of whom played for the team Engineers That Matter, ran toward the center line.
The engineers beat the other team, called Houlihan's, to the ball, shot at the goal and scored. They bumped into each other to celebrate.
Houlihan's and Engineers That Matter were two of the 22 teams that participated Sunday morning in the inaugural Bubble Soccer Tournament at the Missouri Athletic Center.
The event, organized by Day Dreams Foundation, raised funds to help Columbia children 15 and younger buy equipment and cover fees for recreational sports.
Each player had a minimum fee of $30 for the tournament, which consisted of 3-on-3 games. Participants, who had to be 18 and older to play, were encouraged to raise more money through donations.
Day Dreams raised a little over $6,000 through the Bubble Soccer Tournament. The goal was $10,000.
Before the tournament kickoff, players got a quick lesson on how to properly bump from Brandon Eckardt, owner of St. Louis Bubble Soccer.
Players slipped into clear plastic bubbles with colored strings to differentiate the teams. The game follows the same rules as soccer, but Sunday's matches were only 10 minutes long.
Levi Morris, a senior at MU and a member of Engineers That Matter, spent most of his time on the field bumping other players and scoring for his team.
He had his eye on the prizes, which included a doughnut every week for a year from Harold's Doughnuts, a free night at Paint the Town for three to five people and a group fitness class at Wilson's Fitness.
"We better win," Morris said. "Free doughnuts for a year."
Supporters of this year's tournament included Les Bourgeois, Boonslick Kiwanis, Missouri Credit Union, the MAC, Houlihan’s, Coca-Cola, The Broadway Hotel, Fast Yeti and the St. Thomas More Newman Center.
Since its inception in September 2014, Day Dreams has awarded more than $7,000 to 37 youth. The scholarships have gone toward basketball, football, volleyball, soccer, ballet lessons, theater classes, self-defense classes, summer camps, cheerleading, gymnastics and more.
Joe Bradley is the founder of Day Dreams. Bradley, originally from Omaha, Nebraska, has lived in Columbia for the past eight years. Bradley has volunteered with Big Brothers Big Sisters since 2009 and has been an AmeriCorps member for two years.
Last August, Bradley got a call from his Little Brother's grandmother. She asked about scholarship opportunities in Columbia so the boy could play football for the Columbia Youth Football League. The cost was $135. Bradley raised the $135 through the online fundraiser Crowdrise in less than 24 hours.
That experience prompted him to start the foundation. One month later, Day Dreams had its first board meeting and filed paperwork with the state and the IRS to get tax-exempt status. The foundation's board now has 11 members.
"I truly believe that in a town of Columbia's size, it's entirely possible that with enough community support we could in fact eliminate financial barriers to extracurricular activities," Bradley said. "There's a real chance of making that daydream a reality."
Most of the organization's fundraising has been done through online donations.
"In our second year, we hope to give out at least 100 scholarships," Bradley said in an email. "We also hope to improve our name recognition in the community so that more families know that this is available to them."
Bradley hopes to start a college fund for kids who have received the scholarship.
"I believe that this is a good motivator for kids to do well in school," he said, "and we want to reward those kids with some help with their future."