Hot dogs, hamburgers, ice cream, trophies, t-shirts, soccer balls….oh yeah, and some soccer games too! Even the threat of rain didn’t keep players away from all that and more at the annual TOPSoccer Special Children's Picnic held at Peter C. Collins Soccer Park on Saturday. The park was filled with players and families of TOPSoccer teams from across the Island, taking part in games, enjoying a large scale BBQ, and accepting their gifts and trophies with smiles that stretched from ear to ear.
“This is one of the best days of our entire soccer year,” said LIJSL Board Member Joan Connor. “All of our coaches and players in the league should have a chance to see this event. It’s just all about the kids enjoying the game of soccer and the friendships that are built out of that. It’s a great day for these kids.”
The TOPSoccer Special Children’s Program is for those children, teenagers and young adults with mental and/or physical handicap conditions. This program was initiated to accommodate those who are not able to participate in a regular or mainstream soccer activity.
The LIJSL became the first formal soccer league to start a Special Children’s program when the Huntington Boys Club and Massapequa Soccer Club formed teams in 1978. Volunteer Mike Ludin, the father of a son with Downs Syndrome, was the driving force behind the creation of a team, and then a league, and eventually got the Special Olympics to recognize the program and have it added to that event.
All these years later, the LIJSL TOPSoccer program has grown to nearly 20 club teams, and Mike Ludin’s son is still playing, running around the field on Saturday like nothing has changed.
To see a photo gallery from the event click here.