This story first appeared in the Information Point newsletter Our World in 2013, when Maria Mead Stokes told us about the opportunity her daughter Sophia had to play in the VIP soccer league.
Sophia is ten years old and is diagnosed with centronuclear myopathy. She lives in Florida with her mum Maria, dad Darren and brothers Dalton 7, Landon 2 and Gavin 4 months. Recently Sophia was given the opportunity to play soccer with the VIP Soccer League. Below Maria writes about what the opportunity means to her and her family.
The VIP soccer league in South Florida is a wonderful program for children with disabilities which allows children and adults, whose physical or mental disabilities may make it difficult to participate in mainstream teams, the opportunity to get involved in sport. The program is completely funded by the state of Florida with no costs to the families regardless of income, which gives those whose physical or mental disabilities may make it difficult to participate in mainstream teams, the opportunity to get involved in sport.
The organisation believes that everyone needs to feel a sense of belonging and acceptance and has the philosophy of ‘everyone plays’, so players may be blind or visually impaired, have mental or emotional challenges, Autism, Downs Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy or conditions that impair their mobility such as Sophia and uses ‘buddies’ for encouragement and friendship to help players both on and off the field, by teaching participants they can do anything and accomplish wonderful dreams of their own. In turn the buddies increase their appreciation and understanding of individuals with various challenges.
Sophia attended her first soccer practice on Friday 12 April. The photos show blue skies but on the other side of the field it was completely black with storms and lightning coming towards us. We still had a great time though. Everyone involved, adults and children, were so kind, friendly and eager to assist. Sophia can’t wait to go again, she made some great friends that have already spotted her at school and are now yelling ‘Hi Sophia’.
Happiness, love and friendship is our goal for Sophia throughout her entire life and this has already had a definite impact in Sophia’s life and personal acceptance. We are so excited about the program – Sophia has always wanted to play soccer like her brother Dalton and now she can. We can’t wait to cheer her on at future soccer practice or to see what Sophia will do next.