By Lee Griffi
Tavistock Tornadoes Optimist Soccer is offering a tailored program to special needs children in the area. Marlow Gingerich is the long-time face of soccer in Tavistock and says, “all children love to put on a uniform, to be part of a team, to enjoy the great outdoors and feel the thrill of friendly competition in playing soccer, often termed ‘The Beautiful Game’.”
The program was initiated to meet the needs of children in the community who experience physical, intellectual or developmental challenges. “We are aiming to provide a safe space for children and their parents where everyone belongs. This safe place allows for each participant to put on a team jersey, shorts and socks and not only look like part of a team, but also to be a part of the team.” Gingerich adds that the program provides a ‘one volunteer for each player’ for support. “It was clear to us that there are many more children and youth in our surrounding community who want to play soccer but are unwilling or feel unable to participate in the programs we currently offer, as they have special needs that need to be accommodated. Our program is founded on the belief that people with disabilities can, with proper instruction and encouragement, learn, enjoy and benefit from participation in individual and team sports. Our aim is to improve the lives of people with disabilities, and in turn, the lives of everyone they touch.”
There is no cost to the participating players but there is a cost to the club to run the program. Gingerich says they are fortunate to have a main sponsor but are welcoming other community support. “Our main costs are offset by the sponsorship by Raymer Financial, who has been the sole sponsor of this group since inception. We are sincerely appreciative to Andrew Raymer and Ryan Husk for their commitment to meeting a need in our community.” He adds the club would welcome other expressions of interest to sponsor. Snacks for the players, and financial donations to offset to the club’s cost of providing jerseys, shorts and socks would be what the donations would cover.
The special needs program wouldn’t be able to happen without the efforts of volunteers. “We currently have nine volunteers ready to participate, so our capacity is good so far, but we welcome more inquiries so we can scale the numbers. In years past, we have had up to 15 players sign up,” says Gingerich. “The program is run entirely by volunteers. Parents and guardians are welcome to participate but are not required to, but we ask that you are always present throughout the session. Players are given individual attention appropriate for their abilities. Jerseys are supplied, shin guards are required, and soccer cleats are optional. The number one rule is fun,” he adds.
Those interested are encouraged to contact Gingerich as soon as possible at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 226-750-1535 and should do so no later than June 15. Play is expected to begin Monday, June 20 at 6:30 p.m. and run for seven weeks.