BRADEN RIVER -- Since 2007, the Braden River Soccer Club has offered Manatee County special needs youths an opportunity to participate in soccer through a national program.
Through its Braden River TOPSoccer program, a local affiliate of the US Youth Soccer TOPSoccer initiative, children ages 4 and older with disabilities that include Down Syndrome, autism, Asperger's Syndrome, attention deficit disorder and other developmental and physical disabilities, are given a chance to participate in an actual soccer season.
The program is free of charge.
US Youth Soccer began The Outreach Program for Soccer initiative in 1991 and Braden River will kickoff its sixth season later this month.
Registration is open Thursday and Friday between 5 and 7 p.m. and between 10 a.m. to noon on Saturday at the Braden River Soccer Club facility in Lakewood Ranch Park, located at 5350 Lakewood Ranch Blvd.
The Braden River TOPSoccer season begins Sept. 27 and ends Nov. 22.
Dave Robinson, the program director, said there was a need for TOPSoccer in the area.
"I had several parents come up and ask if there was something different to add to the program," he said.
The first season welcomed 30 youths with special needs, Robinson said. This season, he's expecting between 50 and 60 to participate.
"Parents love it," Robinson said. "For them, with having a special needs child, they often don't get to participate in normal recreation sports. For an hour and a half, we don't expect parents to do anything but sit back and watch."
During the season, games will be played every Sunday from 12:30-2p.m. on the Lakewood Ranch Park soccer fields. Participants also will be paired with a volunteer for one-on-one help throughout the season. Robinson said volunteers are needed since there are no paid positions. He said the majority of volunteers are high school and college students.
"We have a high percentage of repeat buddies," he said.
For more information on the program, how to volunteer or sponsor the program, contact Dave Robinson at 941-358-0497 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Nick Williams, East Manatee reporter, can be reached at 941-748-0411 ext. 7049. Twitter: @_1NickWilliams