Soccer Clinic Serves Special Needs Kids
Kids get a kick out of soccer with Cougars at Maplecrest Park.
There were smiles and high fives all around as children learned new skills and scored many goals at the annual Special Needs Soccer Clinic. Kids with challenges from Maplewood and South Orange gathered with parents and volunteers for a fun afternoon of dribbling and kicking at Maplecrest Park.
The event is part of a series of clinics created by the Maplewood Department of Recreation, Parks, and Cultural Affairs and the South Orange-Maplewood Special Education PTO.
About 13 school-aged kids showed up ready to play and paired up with members of the Columbia girls soccer team. The high school kickers were on hand to help and encourage the youngsters through drills and a friendly game. Several of the volunteers, like senior Eliza Gray, said they offer their time each year to work with the kids because the experience is so rewarding.
“It’s really nice to know that by doing something so simple with these kids, it can really brighten their day," said Gray. "I want them to be able to participate in the sport I love for at least an hour and maybe it can show them the game and in the future they’ll have interest in it too.“
Parents watched and chatted on the sidelines. Ursula Boehmer’s daughter, Emily, has been attending the clinics since they started almost three years ago.
“It’s great for my daughter to be involved outside an academic setting, with other people in the community that have special needs and it’s great for the parents to get together and watch our kids have fun like other kids," said Boehmer. "Emily loves being involved with the high school kids, who give her a lot of attention. There’s camaraderie between the high school kids and the special needs kids."
As Special Ed PTO Executive Committee member Leon Morton explains, the clinic helps strengthen the community for parents and volunteers as well as the new players. “It’s a great opportunity for the kids to get skills and gain confidence. It’s a great community program, with the kids from the high school, and most importantly, it’s fun for all the kids.”
Rec Department head George Rague said these clinics are among his favorite events of the year. “I love these. They are some of the best things we do. It’s not about the sport. These kids aren’t here for a medal. They come out and play and it’s a great couple of hours.”
Upcoming Special Needs Clinics for 2012 include basketball on January 19, art on March 25, and baseball on May 20.