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Playing for a cause

Special Olympics Day proves to be a success

By Allen Knappenberger
On October 26, 2011

"I really enjoyed our "Playing for a Cause" game because it's a good feeling to know that by doing something that I love, I can be benefitting an organization that has such a great impact on the lives of many people. It was also awesome to have the Special Olympics athletes there, cheering us on and having a great time," said UW-La Crosse senior and four-year starter for the women's soccer team, Kristin Brown.

Two weeks ago the UW-L soccer team sponsored a game against UW-River Falls devoted to raising money for Special Olympics. This was all part of the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference's state-wide sponsorship of "Playing for a Cause."

"Every women's soccer team in the WIAC picks an organization they want to raise money for and devotes a game day to celebrating that organization. Our team picked the Special Olympics because many of the girls on the team have a connection in volunteering as coaches with Special Olympics teams," said Brown.

With an event such as this, there was plenty of excitement in the air not only for the players, but for the Special Olympians as well. A 50/50 raffle was held to raise money for the Special Olympics, and at halftime the Special Olympics athletes were introduced. Being introduced at halftime is such an honor and very few people get to be in that crowd.

"Over 150 people attended our game in support of the Special Olympics," said Brown. "This was above average relative to other games this season and very similar to attendance for events like this in past years."

It's amazing to see how many people in the community support organizations as great as the Special Olympics. It only takes one person to make a difference and at UW-L it only takes one team to raise awareness. These young women showed that soccer is not just a game, but a way to reach out to fellow human beings and support one another.

Wanting to win on a day such as this must have been a challenge for the UW-L soccer team. Brown thinks the pre-game talk contributed a great deal to their successful victory over UW-River Falls.

"Overall the day was a success. During our pre-game talk we watched a video on the courage of a Special Olympian golfer. The inspiring story got us fired up and fed into our success as a team that day. The success of the day was also evident in the attitudes of the Special Olympians there cheering us on," said Brown. "They were so excited to be there and it was great to look over and see them on the sidelines cheering even during our warm-ups."

UW-L soccer put on an excellent show and that drove the excitement of the crowd and everyone on the sidelines. This energizing factor, this motivation from the

Special Olympians, puts everything into perspective. The game is meant to be fun and encourage you to enjoy what you do. The UW-L soccer team realized that after watching that excellent, moving video. They even gained a greater appreciation for people with special needs.

"I think a day like this does cause us all to gain a greater appreciation for people with special needs. In the video that we watched during our pre-game talk, we learned about a Special Olympian who fought through the adversity of his special needs and many surgeries and never let anything stop his love of competing in his sport," said Brown.

"Though many of my teammates and I have all faced adversity in the course of our lives, it was very humbling and inspiring to hear his story, which was very courageous in comparison. I think we all learned something from it and gained a greater appreciation for people with special needs," said Brown.

The UW-L women's soccer team has been out in the community raising awareness for other organizations in past years. They have volunteered with the Red Cross, Steppin' out in Pink and last year they hosted an event devoted to raising money for "MS Run the US," an organization that helps multiple sclerosis research.

Soccer is not just a game these women play to get to a national title. It's a game they play to help recognize those organizations that are in need. They can be part of a worldwide movement that benefits more than just a small portion of La Crosse County. If we all took their lead, the world might be a friendlier and happier place. It's time to get involved and make a difference.


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