It’s amazing how one small event in our lives can end up changing everything.

For my family, one of those events happened in 2005. My younger brother had been diagnosed with autism a few years prior, and my mom was constantly searching for new programs and acitivities she could get him involved with. Finding sports programs was the hardest, because most athletic leagues are centered around typically-developing children, not children with special needs.

I grew up playing in sports leagues, which I always enjoyed and I believe helped me to make friends and get to know a lot of people in my community. Even though my family and I aren’t supremely athletic or sports fanatics, I think my parents felt similarly about the benefits of athletic programs for kids. They wanted my brother to have that opportunity.

That’s why I will always remember when my mom found out about E-Soccer online in 2005. E-Soccer is a weekly soccer clinic  that teaches kids to play soccer and build healthy peer relationships along the way. E-Soccer practices inclusion, which brings together kids with and without special needs, rather than seperating them. The children with special needs benefit from modeling behavior of their typically-developing peers, and the children without special needs benefit just as great by developing strong traits of leadership and compassion.

E-Soccer had a profound influence on my family. My brother learned to play soccer, forged lasting friendships with the players and volunteer coaches, and developed his confidence in a safe arena. 6 months after my brother started participating at E-Soccer, I began to help coach there as an assistant. Years later, my brother is now an assistant coach too and is able to help other kids because of the support he has received.

My mom was amazed at E-Soccer after the first week that she took my brother in 2005. When she found out that all the coaches are volunteers and most go to the same church, she decided to bring my family to church for the first time. That led to my parents studying the Bible, building incredible friendships, and developing new convictions that made our family closer than we ever were before.

It’s still amazing for me to remember that one small event, like coming to E-Soccer, could influence my family and I in so many ways.

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