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All smiles at Trevian TOPSoccer camp

Trevian Soccer Club player Max Barr, 13, high fives Joey Koenig, 11, after Koenig scored a goal at the TOPScoccer camp Sept. 27 in Northfield. | Steve Schering/Sun-Times Media
Coach Shannon Hartinger gives players a pep talk before the TOPSoccer camp Sept. 27 in Northfield. | Steve Schering/Sun-Times Media
Six year-old Yin Yin of Glencoe receives tips from his buddy Grace Smith, 11, and coach Shannon Hartinger at the TOPSoccer camp Sept. 27 in Northfield. | Steve Schering/Sun-Times Media
Joey Koenig, 11, of Northfield dribbles the ball toward the goal as his buddy, Max Barr, 13, of Winnetka follows at the TOPSoccer camp Sept. 27 in Northfield. | Steve Schering/Sun-Times Media
Six year-old Yin Yin of Glencoe receives instructions from his buddy Grace Smith, 11, at the TOPSoccer camp Sept. 27 in Northfield. | Steve Schering/Sun-Times Media
Amy Lustig, 13, of Northfield, shares a laugh with her buddy Maggie Myers, 12, of Northbrook at the TOPSoccer camp Sept. 27 in Northfield. | Steve Schering/Sun-Times Media
Six year-old Tommy Fritzsche of Winnetka receives a piggyback ride from his buddy Brynn Leiter, 13, of Northbrook at the TOPSoccer camp Sept. 27 in Northfield. | Steve Schering/Sun-Times Media

The success of the Trevian Soccer Club’s weekly TOPSoccer camp can be best measured by the number of smiles on and off the field.

More than 20 participants took to the soccer field with 30 Trevian players at the Northfield Park District to enjoy an hour of competitive but fun soccer drills and activities. Enthusiastic parents crowded the sidelines to snap pictures of the game action.

“The response from players has been tremendous from the moment they heard about it,” said Shannon Hartinger, lead coach for Trevian TOPSoccer. “The enthusiasm they bring each week has been phenomenal.”

The camp, sponsored by US Youth Soccer TOPSoccer, is a community-based training and team placement program for young athletes with disabilities. It’s organized by youth soccer association volunteers. The Trevian Soccer Club launched the program this year to an overwhelming response.

At each camp the participants are teamed up with a Trevian soccer player and the pair are given one hour to hit the field. The “buddies” work on everything from drills, dribbling and scoring goals.

“It’s the most fun ever,” said Trevian player Brynn Leiter, 13. “They love it. It’s not so much about soccer as it’s more about them coming out and having fun.”

Renee George came out to watch her son Joey Koenig, 11, play soccer and it has become an event he looks forward to.

“He’s having a blast,” George said. “He waits for it all week. He was so excited because he scored 11 goals (last week), and was excited to come back.”

The Sept. 27 camp was the second of the five week pilot program. The Trevian volunteers planned to gauge interest this year with hopes to expand the program next season, and they were pleasantly surprised by the response.

“When we first talked about TOPSoccer we hoped for four or five kids,” Hartinger said. “The word has got out very quickly, and today we had close to 25 participants.”

Volunteers do their best to provide children with the opportunity to participate in soccer in a safe, secure, encouraging and really fun environment.

“The club had a desire to do more to give back to the community and provide more opportunities for more people to participate in soccer,” said parent volunteer Steve Snower of Glencoe. “We were very inspired to create these opportunities for special needs kids. It’s really about supporting the kids and giving them more opportunities to do great things.”

Snower’s daughter Jessa, 13, and her teammates get as much joy out of the camp as their buddies, with everyone already looking forward to the next week’s session.

“They really like to run around the field,” Jessa said. “They get so excited about it and we have a lot of fun.”

Based on the success, the team hopes to expand the program to 8-10 weeks next year, the length of a traditional soccer season, and host sessions in the winter.

“I think it’s better than any of us could have imagined,” Hartinger said. “After the first week, our players couldn’t wait for the second session. It’s great that at such a young age they want to help out.”

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