Subscribe

Santa Rosa soccer program opens the field to special-needs children

The "Follow This Story" feature will notify you when any articles related to this story are posted.

When you follow a story, the next time a related article is published — it could be days, weeks or months — you'll receive an email informing you of the update.

If you no longer want to follow a story, click the "Unfollow" link on that story. There's also an "Unfollow" link in every email notification we send you.

This tool is available only to subscribers; please make sure you're logged in if you want to follow a story.

Please note: This feature is available only to subscribers; make sure you're logged in if you want to follow a story.

Subscribe

Children like Michael Greene usually don't get to play organized sports. Typically they watch as kids free of significant physical or developmental challenges play.

That is not the drill at the indoor soccer venue in Santa Rosa that treats special-needs youngsters to the thrill of the game.

Nobody keeps the score at TOPSoccer sessions at Sports City on Piner Road. Nobody cares about it. This is play for the sake of play, recreation that allows normally excluded boys and girls to get some healthy exercise, hone their coordination and taste the joy of the team experience — and of watching a ball that he or she kicked roll into the net.

"I can't say enough about what this program has done for these kids," grandmother Connie Bjork of Santa Rosa said from the sidelines at Sport City.

Her 4-year-old grandson, Michael Green, lives with disabilities that came with cerebral palsy. She said that at first Michael didn't want to go out onto the fake-grass soccer pitch, but soon he couldn't wait to get to his weekly game.

"The increased mobility since he started this is amazing," Bjork said. She said Michael also bonded with his personal "Buddy."

The TOPSoccer program, funded by private donations and the non-profit GOALS Foundation, seeks to link each player with a volunteer helper. Shannon Rake, the general manager at Sports City and director of its TOPSoccer program, said Buddies who worked the most recent eight-week session were aged 13 to 65.

"They don't have to have any specific qualifications, just a positive attitude," she said.

At present, Sports City hosts two sessions of TOPSoccer per year. One, involving 50 children, concluded just this week and the next is set to start in September.

Rake said the program seeks more volunteers, and also donations from individuals, groups and firms who recognize the value of making soccer available to special-needs kids.

"We want to be able to not only to keep it running but to keep it free" to the children's families, Rake said.

She added, "We'd like to be able to potentially offer more sessions per year."

Information on the program is available at playsportscity.com/topsoccer and by email at topsoccer@playsportscity.com.

(Chris Smith is at 521-5211 and chris.smith@pressdemocrat.com.)

Please read our commenting policy
  • No profanity, abuse, racism, hate speech or personal attacks on others.
  • No spam or off-topic posts. Keep the conversation to the theme of the article.
  • No disinformation about current events. Make sure facts are from a reliable source.
  • No name calling. "Orange Menace", "Libtards", etc. are not respectful.
Send a letter to the editor

Our Network

Sonoma Index-Tribune
Petaluma Argus Courier
North Bay Business Journal
Sonoma Magazine
Bite Club Eats
La Prensa Sonoma
Emerald Report
Spirited Magazine