Meridian Star


April 13, 2014

TOPSoccer offers handicapped youth a chance to enjoy soccer

MERIDIAN — The Outreach Program for Soccer (TOPSoccer) hosted its second activities-based events for mentally or physically challenged youth and adults Saturday at the Jaycee Complex.

The event was backed by the Meridian Youth Soccer and United Sates Youth Soccer Association, with participants varying in age from four to 40-years-old.

“Mississippi Soccer Association has encouraged us to put on this event,” event coordinator Neil Henry said. “We want to build this program because these kids need to the game that we love, too.”

Volunteers included employees of Citizen’s National Bank and also included involvement from the East Mississippi Business Development Corporation.

“We thought it would be a great way to give back and serve our community,” EMBDC member Daniel Stewart said. “There’s a lot of things that you could do as far as community service goes. Yet you come out here and you see these kids having fun, who usually don’t get an opportunity to participate in traditional sports, but this gives them that opportunity to play soccer and interact with other kids.”

The program had recently hosted a similar event in the fall, which produced a successful outcome, with even more of a success this time around.

“We did it in the fall and had 16 pre-register and all 16 showed up,” Henry said. “It was a great event then, great turnout, and we’re continuing to try to expand and grow this.

“We have 54 registered for today’s activities.”

Activities included: Red light green light, freeze tag, hit the coach, bowling and a traditional soccer match to conclude the festivities.  

It was all smiles for several of the athletes as they took part in the day’s events.

“I got a nice coach, and it’s great to play soccer,” Jeremiah Walker said.

Added Andrew Moody, “I had a lot of fun.”

Additionally, the opportunity to work with special-needs athletes is something Henry relishes.

“It’s a lot of fun with them,” Henry said. “These kids are athletes with special needs, and we want them to play and have fun. It’s great to help put smiles on these kids faces.”

For more information on how to join, visit

“We encourage anybody that wishes to get involved to do so,” Henry said.

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