Moms First: Tops Soccer
Most parents sign their kids up for sports to encourage a healthy lifestyle and teach them teamwork. One local soccer program is doing all that while building character and confidence for some special athletes.
Top Soccer is open to anyone ages four and up with special needs. They are placed with a soccer partner who is a young athlete, and both the players and coaches are gaining special skills on and off the field.
For more than three-years, Beth Grisoli has been bringing her daughter Mary-Beth to a field in Granger for soccer.
"They play side-by-side. You get to belong to a team. Everybody cheers you on. There's that challenge to it. They don't baby you. It's been a great experience, social and physical,” said Beth Grisoli.
Mary-Beth is just one of many youth with different abilities who belong to Michiana Echo Top Soccer.
“I look forward to seeing my friends, seeing the coaches and scoring goals," said Mary-Beth.
Mary Schalliol, the director of Top Soccer, says watching the players develop soccer skills and friendships is amazing.
"So we meet for six weeks in the spring and six weeks in the fall. We take the athlete and then somebody pairs them up with a volunteer, and they’re with that volunteer for six weeks. They come out, they learn soccer skills, play games and just have fun," Schalliol said.
The players aren't the only ones benefiting, the buddies are too.
"I would love to do it with Taylor again,” said volunteer Stella Toothaker. “We've done it since the beginning, and she's had a lot of fun, and so have I. I have learned a lot of stuff from you, and you love playing all the games."
For Beth Grisoli, having a group where her daughter fits in and feels welcome is most important in the game of life.
"Our kids are no different than anyone else,” Grisoli said. “It's great to come out and feel accepted no matter what your abilities are."
Top Soccer is free and open to anyone in the community. For more information on how to sign up, you can email the program at firstname.lastname@example.org.