OSWEGO, NY – Usually, when Claudia Chetney steps onto the soccer field her objective is clear – do whatever it takes to help her team win. For the past several weeks, she has undertaken a variation of that mission.
The Junior Girl Scout is ensuring that children with disabilities can play soccer for the fun of it – and not worry about winning or losing or even what the score might be.
Claudia said that she has had the opportunity to play organized soccer for the past nine years.
“I was thinking about what I could do for my Girl Scout Silver Award, There are a lot of needs in the community,” she said. “I decided to help kids with disabilities play sports.”
Recently, more than four dozen kids showed up at the Richard Benjamin Sports Complex located behind Oswego Middle School to take part in one of Claudia’s programs.
“The older kids, when they’re ready, they can go up and do a scrimmage (on one of the other fields). The younger kids stay down here on the smaller field with us and just like work on foot skills with them and let them just run and play around – enjoy themselves,” she told Oswego County Today.
Her group of volunteers did a little fundraiser drive to get soccer balls and cleats for any of the participants who want one, she pointed out.
About 60 children, ages 3 to 23, have received their own soccer T-shirt free of charge thanks to the generous donation of Uniforms Etc. owner John McGraw.
“It’s a six-week session that involves kids from all over Oswego County,” Claudia explained. “I am doing this as my project for my Girl Scout Silver Award (the equivalent to the Boy Scouts’ Eagle Award). Doing It Our Way is a sports program organized by Parents of Special Children Inc. Kids are able to play sports without worrying about score, winning or losing. I picked soccer because that’s what I play.”
“I know it’s hard for kids with disabilities to play sports,” she continued. “There are too many rules, regulations, penalties and a whole lot of pressure to win! This program gets rid of all that and lets the kids just have fun.”
The Oswego Youth Soccer Association coaches and players have helped Claudia make this soccer program successful.
Several members of the youth soccer players, boys and girls, have volunteered their time and talents to help the participants experience the joy of playing soccer.
The Doing it Our Way program is funded in part by the Oswego City-County Youth Bureau through a mini grant.
The local program was developed by Monica Stoutenger to allow her daughter and other special needs individuals the opportunity to play sports.
Unfortunately, organized sports are not always so forgiving when we throw it in the wrong basket, kick in the wrong goal or when our feet go left when they should be going right, she pointed out.
“Doing it Our Way will be just that – we will play the same sports, dance the same dance, cheer the same cheers but we will do it our way!” the PSC board president and program coordinator, said.even consider trying.”
Siblings from one family thought that “it was kind of cool” that they could play together in this program (where the special needs child was unable to participate in other sports).
DIOW was designed for special needs individuals of any age who want to participate in the Oswego County area.
Each activity runs for four to eight weeks with an event at the end of each session.
DIOW strives to keep cost to a minimum for its participants.
To do so, they accept not only monetary donations to cover the cost of gym use, providing dance shoes and other program needs, they also accept your unwanted basketballs and soccer balls.
For more information, contact Stoutenger at 2 Tower Drive, Fulton, 598-7672.
“They have done an awesome job, Claudia and her crew,” said Theresa Familo. “I’m really proud of them giving up their Saturdays to help these kids have fun … especially in this hot, humid weather.”
Her son, Alex, has been participating in program. She is also an educational advocate for Parents of Special Children Inc. and a board member of the Oswego County Autism Task Force.
“I’ve been lucky to have had so many great coaches myself over the years,” Claudia said. “And, I want to thank everyone who helped me with this project.”
Every Saturday, at the Richard Benjamin fields, for one hour they’ve been playing soccer and soccer related games.
“I think it’s been great for the kids to be able to kick the ball around and learn a little bit about soccer without having to worry about rules, winning or losing,” Claudia said. “It’s just about having fun. We have even been able to play wheelchair soccer! Siblings too have been able to participate. Many thanks to Oswego Youth Soccer Association for its support, allowing us to use the fields. And thanks to all the coaches who have helped each week, to the many Oswego players who have been here each week pairing up with kids and making it fun for them. Lastly, thanks again to Uniforms Etc in Fulton for donating the shirts.”
While this will complete her requirements for her Girl Scout Silver Award, Claudia is already thinking about how to keep the event going each year as part of the Doing it Our Way program.
For more information or to help out, email Claudia at [email protected]