By: Sara Stanley
“To think that second graders can come together and make a big difference in someone’s life is amazing.” – Muz Mirza
Muz and Shakila Mirza were born and raised in the United Kingdom. Both of their families instilled a strong sense of loyalty to their country and its’ core values of freedom and social integration.
For many of us Americans, Fourth of July is more than a holiday to eat barbecue and set off fireworks. It is a holiday that reminds us that freedom isn’t free and to celebrate our independence as a nation.
In the United Kingdom, there is a similar day. This day is called Remembrance Day. “In the UK, Remembrance Day is a hard thing to miss,” explained Muz. While we at home carry our American flags and deck out in red, white, and blue, in the UK, Remembrance Day poppies are sold in every shop, every school, and all over the place to remember veterans. A Remembrance poppy is a flower that is used to commemorate military personnel who have died in war.
Muz reflected on the first poppy he ever received: “I have a strong memory of my Dad taking me to buy my very first Remembrance Day poppy. I took my pocket money to buy my very first when I was about 7 years old. My Dad pinned it to me and said, ‘Wear it with pride and never forget those who have given so much for us’.”
Fast forward to 2017, the Mirza family instills the beliefs they were taught as children to their kids: “Never take for granted the freedom and liberties that we enjoy today.”
In 2006, Muz and Shakila moved to the United States for a job transfer. In 2009, they were gifted with twin boys, Ayaan & Zak. They may be Americans, but Muz assures they instill in them, UK traditions: “We are raising them with the spirit of the UK and with the swagger of the US!”
The Mirza family first got involved with Shootout for Soldiers when Groton Parks and Recreation of Connecticut arranged a free lacrosse clinic for local kids. Living in the UK, Muz and Shakila had their fair share of football (soccer), rugby, and cricket but definitely no lacrosse. One of the twins’ friend signed up for the clinic, so the boys decided to join. After one clinic, they were hooked! The Mirza’s signed their kids up for the 8U CT Falcons.
CT Falcons coach, Michael Kornaki, spoke to the team about Shootout for Soldiers, what the event was about and the causes that SFS supports. Shakila and Muz thought that this was a great opportunity to help a very worthy cause so they signed-up to attend.
Muz and Shakila wanted to be a part of an organization that supported veterans, but their biggest inspiration for joining was Mike. “His passion and dedication for lacrosse and veterans is infectious. The kids love lacrosse because of Mike and we will forever be thankful for the energy that he and assistant coach George Fricke puts into the team” Muz explained, “Mike and George have embodied a strong sense of team spirit and appreciation in the kids.”
As the boys first SFS event approaches, so does their birthday. Muz and Shakila spoke to Ayaan and Zak about the idea to ask their friends to donate money to SFS instead of receiving birthday presents. After speaking to the boys about it, they told Mike. Mike seemed excited, and a little overwhelmed! Once the boys saw Mike’s reaction, they agreed to do it. “That really got them into the spirit of giving back and they didn’t question the ‘no presents’ thing at all after that. They were totally on board with the idea,” Muz explained. “It’s the right thing to do” Ayaan agreed.
The entire Mirza family’s dedication to SFS led to them in having such successful fundraising success. “We owe a lot to our friends and family for their support with this and each donation and each message is giving our kids the right encouragement to keep it up. The daily sacrifices that our military families make shouldn’t go unnoticed and we want to make sure our kids know about this and comprehend it as much as possible.”
The Mirza family also attributes their fundraising to their passion and dedication to our organization and cause. “We owe our veterans and their families so much. Our veterans have seen and experienced things that are difficult to comprehend or experience. The sacrifices that they make for us … knowing that they bring back physical and psychological scars that impact their life and their families. All of this makes us want to help when we can.”
The Mirza twins will be playing at SFS Boston later this month. To find out more about their team, visit their fundraising page here!