An amazing year for CP SoccerVideo
About the video
I’d like to ask you to please watch this video. It is the story of Cooper and Anna Leigh, two of our CP Soccer kids who were profiled recently by VW and US Soccer. Anna Leigh isn’t old enough to come to CP Soccer Camp yet, but Cooper was in my bunk this summer and we got to know each other well as he became comfortable being away from his family for the first time ever. He and Anna Leigh are so passionate about CP Soccer that their family regularly drives them 6 hours each way to attend CP Soccer practice with our newest team in Clemson, South Carolina. Like all our kids, Cooper and Anna Leigh are true inspirations and testaments to the idea that when you help make one life better you make the whole world better.
A message of reflection from Eli Halliwell of CP Soccer US
While the rest of the world was figuring out how to return to post-pandemic life, we at CP Soccer jumped straight back in with both feet, delivering a year that felt perfectly normal – which was a victory itself.
We resumed in-person weekly trainings for most of our regional programs as soon as possible and became an anchor of normalcy in the lives of our kids. Thanks to masks, vaccines and a healthy dose of luck, we delivered a full year of programming without incident, resuming our annual sleepaway camp and hosting a day camp in conjunction with Columbia University as well.
As a reminder, we launched CP Soccer in 2017 as a 501c3 non-profit with the mission of building a nation-wide league of teams for kids like my son, Levi – kids with CP (cerebral palsy), stroke or TBI (traumatic brain injury). We have been on an incredible, life-changing journey ever since, and we are on a path to create one of the largest, most comprehensive CP Soccer/Football programs in the world thanks to the hard work and incredible support of hundreds of amazing people – including many of you!
These past few years have been challenging for everyone young and old, but undeniably it is our children who have suffered the greatest burden. Beyond the uncertainty, isolation and anxiety produced by the pandemic, most kids lost access to sports and the ability to move their bodies. For kids like our CP kids, who already live in bodies that are more challenging to move and more prone to problems, the pandemic was disastrous. When CP kids become sedentary, they atrophy. And that combined with the ongoing struggle of tight muscles fighting against growing bones means that many kids in our community found they needed to undergo surgeries just as hospitals closed their doors for anything considered “elective.” Levi underwent surgeries on his right leg in the summers of both 2019 and 2020, and a very large percentage of our CP kids required surgeries as well.
The fight against atrophy is what drove us to be at the leading edge of organizations resuming programming. We knew that if we could get the kids in our community moving their bodies on a regular basis it would help them both physically and emotionally. The response has been amazing. Attendance and “new kid acquisition” have never been higher, rewarding our efforts with high engagement, tons of sweat and huge smiles (visible even through masks).
As always, the highlight of our year was our CP Soccer Summer Camp. This year we moved to a new location in upstate New York, and the kids were treated to the freedom to roam the grounds of a remote camp at the end of a country road. Over the course of five days and nights, they poured their hearts out both on and off the turf. Some struggled initially to be away from family for the first time since lockdown (or ever), but the last night was capped off with a dance party that raged on past bedtime and ended with a massive, extended group hug.
This year we resumed our tradition of the CP Circle, where all the kids sit together and talk about what it feels like to have CP. It has been a while since our first session in 2018, and a new crop of kids took the bold step to open up and make themselves vulnerable. There is nothing in life so powerful as the intimacy of someone sharing their pain, bluntly and honestly without varnish or caveat. They shared the loneliness of feeling excluded, the inadequacy of not being able to live up to their parents’ unspoken expectations, the sorrow of bearing mountains of small humiliations, the unbearable acknowledgement that the burdens of their disability won’t ebb – that they face a lifetime of physical and emotional hardship. They cried. They sobbed. We all did. And they hugged and hugged and hugged. Like no kids I’ve ever seen hug. And through the catharsis of tears, they healed a bit, and as we all walked back to the rooms that night everyone was changed.
2022 promises to be another banner year for CP Soccer. We are kicking it off with a National Training Camp in January, where a small group of older players will fly to Florida to train alongside the US Paralympic National Team. This will be a hard-core soccer training experience, where the kids will test their metal against the best Paralympic players in the country and try to make an impression on the Head Coach of the USPNT, Stuart Sharp. A select few from this group will be asked to represent the US at the IFCPF Club World Cup in Barcelona in June. We have opened up our CP Soccer Summer Camp this year to international teams (as had been our plan for 2020), and expect the grand finale of camp to include our first international tournament. We already have Ireland lined up to join, and we’re hoping to fill the camp with kids and coaches from around the world. And, finally, we hope to continue expanding our national footprint in 2022, bringing the backbone of our programming – weekly in-person practices – to kids with CP all across the country.
As a reminder, CP Soccer is 100% free to all participants and, beyond a handful of grants, we fund CP Soccer exclusively from the private donations of friends. As you consider your year-end charitable giving, please consider donating to CP Soccer if you find you are able. We are incredibly stingy about spending, and every donation goes a long way.