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Lakewood Ranch special needs kids have a ball in soccer | Families

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Lakewood Ranch special needs kids have a ball in soccer

Lakewood Ranch, Florida - At this soccer practice there's plenty of cheering and sometimes hands are allowed. That way 4-year-old Chance French who's in a wheelchair can also take part in the fun. "I'll try again," he shouts after maneuvering the ball close to the goal.

These kids are gearing up for the Braden River TOPSoccer season. It's a program designed for kids with special needs and everyone's welcome.

Julian Repetto, 7, has been diagnosed with autism, but he's got the soccer basics down. "I know how to put the ball in the net...you kick it," he says.

Parents say they've seen their kids blossom playing soccer. Not only do they get to run around a lot, but they exercise their social skills as well.

"It's made him more social, interacting with children his own age," says Christina  Schlotthauer, whose autistic son Blake is in the program.

Each child is also paired with a volunteer Buddy and during the season friendships grow with the mostly high school students. "They're nice...they help you with the game," says 8-year-old Blake.

Because the kids involved often have a lot of medical expenses, TOPSoccer is free. And to keep it that way, organizers say more help from local businesses is always welcome.

Braden River TOPSoccer is now enrolling for its fall season. For more information click here.

Some other Tampa Bay soccer clubs also have TOPSoccer. To inquire with a club near you click here.

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