‘It breaks down barriers’: Ridgeland TopSoccer event gives special needs students a morning of opportunity

Published: Oct. 18, 2023 at 5:20 PM CDT
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RIDGELAND, Miss. (WLBT) - Wednesday morning, roughly 1,000 people could be seen kicking soccer balls around at Freedom Ridge Park in Ridgeland.

Over 400 of them were special needs students from across the metro-Jackson area. The other roughly 500 were volunteers made up of teachers, students, and parents.

The organization - called “TopSoccer” - put the event together to give disabled students ages 5-18, the opportunity to get out of the house and let loose.

“That’s what this program does. It breaks down barriers,” said TopSoccer organizer Cameron Arcemont.

Students were bunched into groups and traveled around the fields in “stations,” where they were met with one activity after another.

Many of them discussed their excitement to not just play soccer, but to connect with one another outside of school.

“We’ve been friends since middle school, since sixth grade,” said one pair of now high-school students.

“I think it’s amazing because it’s so much fun to be outside and having fun and playing with some people who you really don’t know much and then you can have a fun relationship,” said another young student.

Many parents serving as volunteers acknowledged the challenges that can come with raising a special needs child. Especially when their child wants the opportunity to play competitive sports, or simply get outside more often.

That’s where Wednesday came into play.

“We don’t have coaches yelling, we don’t have drills, we don’t have people running faster than us, so it’s a really fun, energetic environment where they get to play and experience the sport without a lot of experience, or pressure, or demands,” said mother, Trace Robertson.

“This is a great opportunity to allow her to really realize that she can fit-in and she can enjoy herself and be just like everyone else,” said another mother, Kimberely Cassell.

Once the event was over, many of the student volunteers on-hand passed out medals to each student who participated.

Many of whom, are the very students who share the classroom with those on the playing field.

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