A famous quote from Margaret Mead states, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
Local man Tim Gage is thrilled to announce the realization of TOPS (The Outreach Program for Soccer), a dream come true for his son and other area kids with special needs. Any child or young adult with a disability – such as Down syndrome, autism, muscular dystrophy, cerebral palsy, sight or hearing impaired, traumatic brain injury, or others - is welcome to participate.
Gage said, “We wanted to help start something for kids with disabilities in the area. Our purpose for starting this soccer program is so these kids can be part of something which they might not otherwise get to experience. Something they can identify with. Our objectives are to build their self-confidence, get some exercise, and have fun. Oh yeah and we actually play some soccer too!”
It was a journey started two years ago by Twin Valley Soccer Club (TVSC) when they began exploring sponsoring a soccer program for children with disabilities. The initial push was spearheaded by Craig Hafer (President of the TVSC) and Mark Moyer as they sought a way to serve this community of children.
Gage elaborated, “We had discussed starting a program a little over two years ago. Then Craig, as president of TVSC, approached the other board members. The board was the instrument that allowed us to launch by finding a way to fund this year’s program. Craig had approached me last winter asking me if I would chair the effort and I agreed.”
Then the program’s groundwork was laid. The TVSC board set up a special coaches’ clinic for Gage, TOPS volunteers, and any other coach who wished to sit in on the seminar. They received proper training by a qualified source - Mike Barr, the Director of Coaching from the Eastern Pennsylvania Youth Soccer Association. They were trained in how to structure an adaptive soccer program for kids of all abilities.
Full time volunteers in addition to Tim Gage include, Marnee Gage, Paul Barbour, Elizabeth Santangelo, and Angela Flear.
Gage said, “Additionally I can’t say enough about how great Twin Valley School District has been. They have made their turf field available to us on Saturdays from 1-3 p.m. and have been great in all aspects. It’s important to have a field like this for TOPS because some children require a really even and true surface to run or otherwise they have difficulty participating. Training sessions are 1 – 3 p.m. until October 27th. We are currently evaluating a winter and spring training session as well.”
They welcome anyone interested in attending to come to a practice and they will gladly include you in the fun. The current practice structure is younger children (ages 5-8) at 1:00 p.m., which includes an array of drills and games. Then at 2:00 p.m. the older kids come and the drills are more difficult. A game is played at the end of practices. All activities are geared toward player development rather than competition. Games and activities are adapted in ways that ensure the child will learn and progress at his own pace.
Gage’s commitment to TOPS runs deep, “Having a son with a disability really opens your eyes. All the little things we take for granted he struggles to do. Small things like just running and kicking at the same time are difficult when you have a disability.”
“You should see how far our kids have come in just a month. It’s been an amazing process to watch them become more interested in the game of soccer and also make new friends. Many high-fives are exchanged (and) there is a sense of fellowship which exists among the players and parents. A program like this brings entire families together for a few hours of fun on a Saturday afternoon. Many of the kids in our program have made tremendous strides and quite honestly even if it’s just one child or family this helps, then it’s worth it to us.”
It is TOPS’ fervent desire to grow this program, which is not restricted by school district or any other boundary. All are welcome to join the fun on the field at Twin Valley High School Stadium Field.
Gage, speaking on behalf of all the volunteers, said, “We would love to have anyone who wants to play or even just try the program to come out. There is no cost to play. We are working on finding sponsors for the program on a longer term basis through TVSC, but right now it’s being funded by them. They have been great with specialized equipment and including the kids in everything they do.”
Anyone interested in playing in the winter or spring can contact Tim Gage at 610-745-9838 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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