The fun and competition of sports can encourage many positive attributes including building confidence in young people to achieve in all areas of their lives. Many youths with disabilities are often not given the same access and ability to participate. Breaking down any barriers to getting on the field was the impetus 12 years ago for Spaulding and Mass General to partner with the New England Revolution to hold a soccer clinic for youth with disabilities. Over that time hundreds of children have been introduced to the sport of soccer and been encouraged to continue to play.
“It is such a pleasure for our entire team to support this event as we get to see the young people who participate enjoy the challenge and camaraderie that sports can provide,” said Russ Averna, Vice President of Human Resources, Spaulding Rehabilitation Network. “Getting to be front and center on the field at Gillette Stadium will hopefully empower them in the classroom and beyond.”
This year’s clinic was the largest ever with over one hundred thirty participants and their families from throughout Eastern Massachusetts getting the chance to train on the same Gillette Stadium field that their heroes from the Revolution and Patriots perform on each week. Participants came from Easter Seals of Massachusetts, Partners with Youth for Disabilities, Tops Soccer Programs, Special Olympics of Massachusetts and area schools and summer programs. Revolution players Juan Agudelo, Darrius Barnes, Steve Neumann, Donnie Smith, and London Woodberry as well as coaches from the Revolution and Revolution Academy were on hand to run drills and teach skills to the kids to improve their enjoyment of the game. Local Paralympian alumni in men’s soccer Eli Wolff also was on hand to speak to participants and parents on ways to engage in sports.
“There were smiles everywhere on the Gillette Stadium field that afternoon,” said Maureen O. Larkin, manager of employee communications at Mass General. “My team looks forward to this event year after year. The Revs players and coaches – they’re all there for the same reason the kids are – a true love of soccer.”
It is such a pleasure for our entire team to support this event as we get to see the young people who participate enjoy the challenge and camaraderie that sports can provide. Getting to be front and center on the field at Gillette Stadium will hopefully empower them in the classroom and beyond.Russ Averna Vice President of Human Resources, Spaulding Rehabilitation Network
Dejan, a participant from Partners for Youth with Disabilities, mentioned how he had never met professional players in such a meaningful event format with the team so accessible to the participants. He was happy to get the coaches' and players' feedback on his dribbling. A grateful grandmother also shared, “Anthony went to school this morning so excited to tell his teacher all about the event.”
Each participant was able to receive a Spaulding and Mass General back pack as well as an autographed Revolution team poster. Far more impactful than any technique learned or souvenir received was the confidence gained by participants that will benefit them well beyond any sports fields.