Youthful voices chanted, “Soccer, soccer, soccer,” in the Moraine Valley Community College Cyclone Center on Oct. 6, signaling the end of a scrimmage game played by the women’s soccer team and 19 Special Olympics athletes from eight elementary and junior high schools from Oak Park School District 97.
With assistance from their chaperones and teachers, the young athletes scurried around the gym for an hour. Cyclones and Special Olympians donned yellow, red or blue practice jerseys to distinguish teams, but everyone ran around wearing big smiles.
Hosting this scrimmage was an opportunity for Moraine Valley athletes to give back to the community and offer a different experience for students with disabilities.
“Being former athletes, coaches and teachers, we feel that it is our job to give back when we can. Athletes are automatic role models to many kids,” said Cyclones assistant Coach James Kline, who organized the event. “We can offer an experience that these students might not have had, and it’s really an experience for both sides. As a special education teacher, I always try to find ways to accommodate or incorporate the students with disabilities any way we can.”
The two visiting teams—Eagles and Jayhawks—included boys and girls of varying abilities. Moraine Valley athletes assisted some players or hung with the goalkeepers, giving everyone a chance to change positions. The scoreboard wasn’t illuminated and a clock wasn’t winding down to the end of the half. They were just having fun. And every goal brought a rousing cheer from the players.
“They were so excited when they scored. It was great to share something we love with these kids,” said sophomore Dalila Alcala (Eisenhower).
At the end of the hour, the group took a photo. Before the Special Olympics athletes departed, the Cyclones shared high-fives, took selfies with and gave bear hugs to their new friends.
“We could have played soccer the rest of the day if we were able to,” Kline said. “It was really awesome how excited both students and our players were to see one another even though they had never met. Everyone came together and just had a blast.”
Visit www.morainevalley.edu/athletics or follow the Cyclones on Facebook at morainevalleycyclones and Twitter @MVCyclones.