Like many people, we are attempting to hold onto the final days of summer. As we reflect on all of the wonderful programming we were able to hold this year, we find our greatest takeaway was how many incredible kids we were able to work with from all across the Cape and beyond. We learned about new cultures, shared stories, laughed ( a lot), and found ourselves feeling so grateful to be able to do the work that we do.
For the seventh consecutive year, we ran our annual KidzPlay4Free summer beach soccer program. Kids who are natives to Cape Cod and people just passing through for the summer joined us every Monday for an evening of pick- up beach soccer. Some of our favorite aspects of this program are the ease with which it runs. As the participants run around barefoot and laughing into the summer sky, family members are able to take in a warm summer night both stress and care free. We will always stand behind the notion that sports do not need to be expensive or stressful for a player or their family. In the right environment, they can make for the perfect experience. Our players help set up and break down fields, they help organize teams, and they solve problems which arise on the field. With minimal adult instruction and interaction, we are teaching them how to navigate on their own. A skill set that is vital to success in so many areas of their lives.
Joining us on Kalmus Beach this summer were participants from across the United States and even from places such as England, Germany, and Brazil. It is wonderful to watch the organic conversations among the players, as they are genuinely interested in hearing about where others are from. The game of soccer is such a conduit for these types of connections. In addition to playing with and learning about one another, we also had nightly lessons on topics such as environmental responsibilities, kindness and anti-bullying and giving back to your community. We feel that every athletic interaction and be accompanied by discussing and thinking about greater life lessons.
Something new we did this summer which was undoubtedly one of our favorite programs to date was UKSD’s very first, completely free of charge, KidzPlay4Free Summer Evening Clinic. We were able to offer this clinic to kids from the Barnstable community ranging from ages 7 to 17. We also opened the doors to any other players who might want to join us. Sure enough, our beach soccer friends from Germany and England were on board as well.
As many know, summer camps and clinics can be extremely expensive and many families are unable to let their kids to participate due to the financial burden. We thought about how missing out on that experience can be detrimental to both a child’s growth and happiness, and we felt the need to come up with a solution. When they get older, we want them to be able to join in on the conversation that begins with, “when I went to summer camp or sports clinics”. However, in typical UKSD fashion, we wanted to add an impactful and educational twist.
This three night clinic was based around playing the game of soccer while also learning about some of UKSD’s main focus topics. Through unique and carefully constructed activities, we were able to delve into conversations revolving around homelessness, hunger, and substance abuse. Following the methodology of the coaches across continents self-discovery learning model, the participants were the leaders of many of the conversations and were able to explore concepts and ideas that were pertinent to their lives and their communities.
To say that this event was both powerful and enjoyable would be an understatement. We are often in awe of just how intelligent youth can be. The discoveries that they were making, along with the deeper and connective level of thinking truly blew us away. Also embedded within the three night program was supporting the idea of self- advocacy in leadership skills.
This is something that we hope to continue every summer from here on out. We were able to connect with youth from so many different backgrounds, ethnicities, ages, etc. We were able to help kids build memories and feel as if they get to be part of summer experiences that they may have otherwise had to miss out on. We are going to spend a significant amount of time this year raising funds to be able to give this opportunity to even more kids if possible.
A new school year may be approaching, but we are still sifting through all of the moments which made our 2019 summer one to remember. Thank you to all of our donors who made this possible. The kids from our community deserve to be part of something that expands their minds and makes them feel connected, and you have helped do just that.