By Jessica Robb
We are delighted to present these stories, but please appreciate that some names may have been changed at the request of parents, teachers, or the kids themselves.
For a lot of the kids involved with Free Footie, the program offers a chance that they wouldn't normally have: to play organized soccer. With registration fees, equipment, uniforms and transportation, the cost can add up quickly...especially when you have more that one kid involved.
Hayley and Alexander are fraternal twins in grade 3. Both stepped on the field for the first time two years ago with Free Footie.
"This was something [Alexander] really wanted to do, but at first [Hayley] was like 'I'm not sure about this whole thing', so I told them that if one plays both have to play," says their mother, Lindsay.
And since that first game neither twin has regretted their decision to join!
With another set of three-year-old twins, Lindsay can't express enough how grateful she is for programs like Free Footie. Giving her children, and many others, the opportunity to play an organized sport is just one of many reason Lindsay fully supports the program.
Another is the social aspect.
"Hayley is a really outgoing person. She makes friends easily. But Alexander's speech problems sort of impede on his friendships, and he gets frustrated and angry. But, here they're playing with all their friends after school and building those friendships. They love it!" says Lindsey.
Watching the two play together is an adorable sight. With Alexander in net and Hayley as his defender the family duo work extremely well together. As Hayley puts it "I support him and he supports me. I like it a lot."
But when Alexander said the same, Hayley was quick to call him out.
"That was a lie! You did that twin look when we lie!"
So the 9-year-old corrected himself, "I like being on my sister's team only because it's kind of like we stick together and we help each other out. On the field and in practice." This time, there was no call-out from his sister, so we'll take that as the truth...
I spent a lot of the game talking to Lindsey. We talked about the importance of kids playing sports and how she used to tear up the Lauderdale soccer fields when she was in grade six.
But our conversation took a bit of a turn towards the end.
"Hayley and Alexander were actually fraternal triplets, but I lost one. One for God and two for us, right? And Hayley, she actually died on the table at birth...and they brought her back. She's our miracle girl," says Lindsey.
As the game finished and the twins ran over to their mom screaming their winning score at the top of their lungs, I couldn't help but smile. Meeting Hayley you never would have guess that she had been revived at birth, or that Alexander had a speech problem. Talking to them about soccer and their love for the sport brought out this excitement that was nothing short of contagious.
Free Footie wasn't just a game to them...it was an outlet. It was a way to get active, make friends, and strengthen their bond as siblings. These are important skills to have and foster while kids are young. I hadn't put it together that Free Footie could offer this larger skill set to kids, but through our conversation on the sideline that afternoon, Lindsey really helped me to understand this.