ShareThis Page
News

Players, volunteers get kick out of Penn Hills soccer program for special needs kids

| Thursday, June 7, 2007

As Robyn McKee dribbled a soccer ball down the field, weaving between opponents to score her seventh goal of the evening, her father watched proudly from the sidelines.

"She's in heaven here," Cliff McKee, of Plum, said of his 19-year-old daughter. "It's her highlight of the week."

In The Outreach Program for Soccer in Penn Hills, everyone scores a goal, and everyone is happy to come.

TOPSoccer is a program that gives children and teenagers with special needs an opportunity to participate in athletics through soccer. The program is made up of players ages 4-19 and volunteers of all ages who help them learn drills and assist during games.

Last week, TOPSoccer's game at a Dible Elementary School field concluded the spring season. An award ceremony honored the participating athletes.

The hourlong program Tuesday evenings will start again in September.

"When you have a special-needs child, it's hard to find good programs for them," McKee said. "This program is great."

It isn't just players who learn and grow during the games.

Gigi Snodgrass, organizer of the program and an aide for special needs students at Linton Middle School, said volunteers and parents learn from interaction with others.

"We had so much fun," said Snodgrass, of Penn Hills. "There was so much joy."

Snodgrass and her son Ryan started the program two years ago. It is sponsored by the Penn Hills Soccer Association.

Ryan Snodgrass, 20, received an athletic scholarship to play soccer at Gardner-Webb University in North Carolina during his senior year of high school. He wanted to do something that would benefit the community.

TOPSoccer was such a success the first year that his mother continued the program after he went to college. A junior, Ryan Snodgrass comes to games and works with the players on vacation breaks from school.

"Some people have been searching for years (for a program like this)," Gigi Snodgrass said. "If we stopped, these kids would be empty."

TOPSoccer's spring enrollment was 25 players and 20 volunteers, called "buddies." Some volunteers are adults; others are from high school, middle school and youth groups, including many who have volunteered since the program started.

"People ask where I get volunteers," said Gigi Snodgrass. "I ask everyone."

Nearly all parents of players attend the games, she said.

"It gives them an opportunity to talk to other adults that they might never have met otherwise."

When the final game ended, she gave each student a booklet of photographs and a certificate. "Every one of you is a winner," she said.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.

click me