“Our son loved it today. He felt like a normal kid, like he was part of something. I love that I can see my son actually participate in something,” said Crystal Simpson, whose son Jesse participated in the launch of E-Soccer in Southern Las Vegas.
Jesse, who has muscular dystrophy and has to wear braces on both of his legs, has been on the sidelines his whole life. He has struggled to find a place where he can participate in physical and social activities with other kids his age. Like many of the parents who brought out their children to the launch this weekend, Lonnie and Crystal Simpson, Jesse’s parents, have been searching for programs like E-Soccer for years.
“We are so excited and thrilled that this is here. This is meeting such a great need and we want to do everything we can to help. There need to be programs like this everywhere,” said Lonnie.
There was much excitement and anticipation as families arrived and streamed onto the Mesa Park fields beginning at 10 am on Saturday morning. The first session from 10-11 am for kids aged 3-5 included 130+ kids grouped into 13 teams of 10 each – approximately half with special needs and half typical. The second session, from 11 am until noon with 140+ kids ages 6-14 years old, were grouped into 14 teams. In all, over 270 children participated with over 90 volunteer coaches.
Most of the coaches who came to help had never participated in a program like E-Soccer. Very few have any experience in helping children with special needs. However, they all had a desire to meet a growing need in the Greater Las Vegas area, the need for an inclusive environment for typically developing children and children with special needs.
The Bay Area Christian Church was able to send twelve experienced E-Soccer volunteers (coaches, as well as therapists and/or special education teachers from institutions such as the Hope Technology School) to help assist the new Las Vegas coaches in how to create an inclusive environment on the soccer field, as well as on going success for their program in the future. E-Soccer originally began with one father, Russ Ewell, taking his two sons with special needs to the park with just a few friends. It’s incredible to see what it has grown into.
Many parents had never found a program they trusted to be able to help their child with special needs. One mom, whose son is blind, expressed that she has wanted to take her son to an inclusive program for years but had never found a program that understood how to work with the special needs of children like her son. She was hesitant to try E-Soccer but after speaking with Kelly Clark, the administrative director, and hearing about the enthusiasm of the coaches and the number of other families bringing their children with special needs, she decided to give E-Soccer a try.
At the end of the session she said, “I’m so glad that my son can just be here and have the opportunity to be included in such an amazing environment and program.”
Saturday was just the beginning and we are excited to see the amazing impact that E-Soccer will continue to have in the Greater Las Vegas area.