To the editor:
Our family started a soccer team for Special Olympics athletes, the North Shore Rovers, this past fall.
The season was a tremendous success, with the athletes, ages 5 to 15 years old, training once a week and then competing at the end of the season in two tournaments.
The tournaments resulted in numerous accolades for the team, including highest-energy goal-scoring celebration, most original playing formation, and most "high fives."
Aside from seeing the smiles on the athletes' faces, the most rewarding part of the experience was witnessing a community pull together when we needed some help.
We decided early on that every athlete should have a volunteer teenage "buddy" who would be there to work with them every step of the way, and our local kids stepped up in a big way.
Volunteer buddies were: Harry Copeland, Ben and Sam Rotner, Hannah and Owen English, Emma Faulkner, Priscilla Sullivan, Mackenzie Robertson, Eliza and Dylan Steele, Nikki and Taylor Gateman, Casey Kennedy, Clare Lang, and Jessica Gambale, all of Swampscott; Sam Varsano and Mackenzie Joyce of Marblehead; and Jacqui and Alex Dziadosz of Boxford.
These buddies ultimately were what made the team such a tremendous experience for the athletes.
We also had some great adult volunteers who acted as "jack-of-all-trades" to enable the program to function: Erin Osswald of Marblehead and Kris Kennedy, Jodi Gateman and Kristen Reid of Swampscott.
Finally, we had two fantastic coaches, two guys who know a lot about soccer but maybe even more about inspiring a love for the game: Randy Chalifour of Peabody and Jackson Steele of Swampscott.
When your substitutes are practicing their dance moves on the sidelines as they wait to get back into the game, you know you're doing something right.
With the program being free of charge to the athletes, Marblehead Bank and a number of individuals made donations to help defray the costs of the team. We also had a number of local merchants help out with in-kind donations: Doyle Sails of Salem contributed team banners; David Stowell Designs of Gloucester provided discounted services for the team logo design; and Crown Trophy of Middleton made a generous donation of trophies for the athletes.
Finally, we were floored when Bob Dziadosz of Team Outfitters of Georgetown donated full uniforms for all the athletes.
We hope you will consider patronizing these local merchants who were so generous in giving back to the local community.
Thanks to all our volunteers and donors for making our inaugural season a success.
We're looking forward to more fun and smiles next season, so if there are any kids out there with intellectual disabilities who would like to play some soccer, please let us know.
Jack and Gail Steele