An Activity That Changed Me

“Sure, add me to the list.”That is how it all began.Four years ago I said yes when a friend asked me to volunteer to be a part of a unique group called The Challenger Program.It was a new program in Northborough that his mom was starting, that would help children with special needs play sports.

It sounded great to me as it was connected to sports and to helping kids.Little did I know when I said yes how this would impact me not only as an athlete, but as a a person. The first day of Challenger arrived and it was soccer season. As I walked up to the table to check in I saw a few familiar faces. There were 40 kids there to play soccer in a safe environment.

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Some were running, some were wheeling and even some rolling around on the ground looking like they were enjoying life. I realized pretty quickly that every one of these kids was unique as were the peer volunteers; some tall, some short, some timid, some outgoing, and all of varying ages; there was true individuality all around the fields on this beautiful Tuesday night. My partner for the first day was a boy named William. I was excited to work with him but I was also nervous. William is a boy with down syndrome and I had never interacted with an individual with down syndrome before. I went and grabbed a soccer ball for us to warm up.

We started kicking the ball around and William had a rocket of a kick. He kept on kicking the ballby me making us both laugh.I began looking around at allthe other kids and could see the excitement on their faces, energy whirling around the field, and the determination in their eyes. It was truly inspiring. Each kid was putting everything he or she had into each kick. I knew not even a half hour into the first practice that these kids had incredible qualities.

Qualities that every human wished they had, but were not blessed with. These kids were blessed with them. They may have been there because of diagnosed challenges but that’s not what stood out to me. I saw positive attitudes, perseverance, determination and pride. They were not concerned about what others thought.

They wanted to try and to continue to try. As the practice went on,I realized that the opportunity to play with them and learn from them was truly a gift to me. Now, four years later, I look forward to getting the emails that the Challenger Program is looking for volunteers. Being a part of this program actually taught me how to better respond and reactwhen I face challenges. When I struggle with something, from writing a paper to having trouble with a sport or even trying something new, I remember the qualities that these kids use every day.

I need to persevere, to be determined, stay positive and feel proud that I tried. These kids have become my personal motivation as well as a part of my life just because I said “Sure, add me to the list”.