HOOD RIVER — Few people unfamiliar with soccer realize how unifying and edifying the game can be — especially for young children. But the word is quickly getting out.
TOP Soccer, a local soccer program designed to provide a positive learning environment for children with special needs, just completed its third season on Monday at Hood River Middle School.
The unfortunate thing is, no one who participated is ready for it to be over yet.
“I love two things,” 6-year-old Savannah Graham said. “Animals and sports. And soccer is already one of my favorites.”
Graham, a first grader at Horizon Christian School, has been participating in TOP Soccer since last year and has every intention to continue learning.
“My dad and my friend Maggie like to play, so I thought I would try it, too,” she said.
Graham’s mother Amy has been very pleased with the program and is behind it 100 percent.
“Being on a team means so much to Savannah,” Amy said. “She is so proud to be on a team and can’t stop talking about it.”
But Graham and the other young players aren’t the only ones who have benefitted. Youth coaches like Paul Brown are also taking away positive experiences.
“It feels really good to help these kids,” said the first-year volunteer. “I’ve been lucky enough to play sports my whole life and I want make sports
enjoyable for these kids, too.”
Program coordinator Roxanne McClure helped organize TOP Soccer for that very reason.
“It’s been fun to see how much the kids have progressed,” she said. “Not just the kids on the team, but the teenage coaches have grown a lot as well.”
McClure’s two kids, Matt and Lindsay, also helped out this year, along with 15-20 other high school and middle school students. She said the one-on-one experience has been very rewarding and she hopes to have a similar turnout this summer.
Practices will be held the last Monday of June, July and August at the HRMS athletic field. For more information or to get involved, call McClure at 387-3012. The program is co-sponsored by the Oregon Youth Soccer Association and Uniroyal Tires.