Kicks for Kids starts off new semester

first_imgOn Sunday, student organization Kicks for Kids, a soccer league for special needs children, held its first game of the new season at McCarthy Quad.Kicks for Kids aims to promote  a healthy lifestyle through physical activity. The organization was founded by its current president, Zade Shakir, a senior majoring in biology and international relations.Shakir started the program last fall after being inspired by his involvement with Spirits in Action, USC’s version of the Special Olympics. After speaking with a parent, Shakir realized there was a lack of resources available for kids with developmental disabilities, particularly in organized sports.Growing up, Shakir said, soccer was a major part of his life, with some of his best memories taking place out on the field. He felt a responsibility to give special needs children the same opportunity.“I wanted to create an avenue where kids could come have fun, get fit, bring their friends and families to have similar memories,” Shakir said.Additionally, the club is aimed at combating the correlation between obesity and children with developmental disabilities. The weekly Kicks for Kids soccer games provide kids with the chance to run around, make friends and form relationships with the student volunteers.Each player is paired with a volunteer that he or she generally stays with each week. Adwight Risbud, a sophomore majoring in religious studies and human biology, described his time with one of the students.“During my first experience with Kicks for Kids, I was paired up with a buddy, Aidan, who is a 6-year-old with Down’s syndrome, and I was with him for the next five weeks,” Risbud said. “We were able to form a great relationship.”Risbud is also in charge of player recruitment, which entails reaching out to schools and families to spread the word about Kicks for Kids. Schools in the surrounding area with special needs programs have been incredibly receptive to the organization, and the parents have an advisory board to give their ideas and input on the weekly activities.The parents also helped put the club in contact with special guests such as celebrity trainer Dion Jackson and the Los Angeles Laker Girls.Jackson, who has worked with celebrities such as Jennifer Lopez, Carrie Fisher and Dustin Hoffman, gave participants and parents healthy lifestyle tips. He also showed the participants exercises and stretches they can incorporate before they play in their soccer games.The Laker Girls also provided encouragement and inspiration to the children by taking the time to talk and play with them.The success of Kicks for Kids is not only derived from the parents and celebrity guests, but also from other student organizations. Groups such as the Helenes, Spirit Leaders and the pre-health honor society donate their time each week. Shakir made a big effort to talk to pre-health and occupational therapy students to give them the chance to work with kids who could be similar to their future patients.More than 50 volunteers came together to make this year’s season kick off another success.                 Rima Al-Rabadi, a junior majoring in global health and a member of the  Helenes, noted the program was equally beneficial to the students and kids.“For the students, it is rewarding to see how just spending the morning with a kid can make their day,” Al-Rabadi said. “For the kids, they have an incredible opportunity to create relationships and interact with other kids like them. Overall, it is a unifying and rewarding experience.”last_img