When thrust into foreign situations and worlds, Nick Madaras used soccer to connect to the people around him. Law enforcement in El Paso County are using the same concept to connect with youth this summer.
The El Paso County Sheriff's Office and Colorado Springs Police Department have partnered with the Southeast Springs Soccer Initiative (SeSSI) to play soccer with youth at six local parks across the region this summer.
The games run from 6 to 8 p.m. each week night:
- Monday - Evans Elementary, 1675 Winnebago Road;
- Tuesday - Deerfield Park, 4290 Deerfield Hills Road;
- Wednesday - Prairie Grass Park - 710 Chapman Drive;
- Thursday - Van Diest Park, 1520 Chelton Road, or Wagner Park, Stanford Street;
- Friday - Soaring Eagles Park, 3196 Spotted Tail Drive.
The games are an opportunity for deputies and police officers to talk to local youth and to encourage healthy activities by giving away soccer balls, the sheriff's office said. Even county Sheriff Bill Elder and city Police Chief Pete Carey will participate.
The "kick around" games are in partnership with the "Kick for Nick" program started in honor of Fort Carson solder Nick Madaras, 19, who was killed in 2006 by a bomb while serving in Iraq.
Each ball donated carries Madaras' name in honor of the soldier's mission to deliver soccer balls to underprivileged children around the world. It was a mission Madaras started while serving overseas, according to the foundation's website.
Madaras first fell in love with the sport after moving to the U.S. from overseas. His parents "literally pushed" him into the game in an effort to help him assimilate to his new home. He became a star.
He later sought to share his passion with Iraqi children, who played often in the street with anything they could find, usually a tin can. Madaras sought to replace the cans with balls, and asked his family to send him the equipment.
He died before he could distribute them.
The Foundation now sends balls to other soldiers to distribute in Madaras' name, and to organizations like SeSSI that help kids at home.
"Every ball handed out generates a smile and every smile generates a memory of good will and friendship, which we hope will one day allow us all to play on one field," the foundation's website says.
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