For the past 10 years I have served in various Westfield Soccer Association (WSA) Board positions, including president. We operate one of the largest soccer clubs in the State of New Jersey with over 2,600 participating children of varying skill levels. Parents enroll their children in programs to learn, play, and enjoy the world’s most popular sport. The success of the Club is due to the hundreds of parents, with or without knowledge of the game, who volunteer their time both on and off the field.
Several years ago we realized that we were not serving an important part of our community—the special-needs families. Several of us researched the opportunity in the fall of 2014. Two months later, in December, we launched our first session of Westfield Winners, a program designed for children with physical and intellectual disabilities. Westfield Winners is a free, non-competitive, one-on-one soccer program designed to offer a safe environment where special needs children can learn to play and enjoy the game of soccer. Westfield Winners encourages higher self-esteem and a sense of belonging to a team. Children play at their own pace in a relaxed atmosphere guided by their own trained and dedicated “Soccer Buddy.” Westfield Winner Soccer Buddies are middle and high school players who themselves have benefited from the game in our community and wish to share these joys with other special needs children. We have had up to 100 middle and high school volunteers per session for Westfield Winners. We are moved by these acts of kindness by our 12-18 year olds who are motivated to give back to the community at such a young age. The joy and smiles produced on a Saturday morning at Westfield Winners is as meaningful to us as achievements in State Cup by our most talented teams. Volunteering as a WSA parent coach and serving on the Board has enriched my life and my community.