The Foxhole: More than soccer balls

Many residents of Wilton drive through the Center at least a couple times a week, and pass what has now become a landmark in town, the large cylindrical net filled with soccer balls with a sign reading Kick for Nick. It stands in the front yard of Wilton’s American Legion Post 86, across from the gazebo on Old Ridgefield Road.

This story begins with a young man who grew up in Wilton and became passionate about the game of soccer; besides becoming a very good player, he also started coaching as an assistant in the Wilton Soccer Association in middle school! During his senior year in high school, Nick Madaras enlisted in the U.S. Army, and after graduation, began basic infantry training at Ft. Benning, Ga. After graduating airborne school there, Nick was assigned to 1st Battalion, 68th Armor Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division. In November 2005, this unit was sent to Iraq.

While on his tour, Nick noticed that soccer was a major part of the children’s activities and games, yet were using balls in very poor condition, if they had any at all. While home on leave in the summer of 2006, Nick mentioned to his family that he wanted soccer balls to be sent to him, so he could pass them out to the children in the area he was assigned.

Unfortunately, Nick was killed by an improvised explosive device before he received any soccer balls.

After hearing his story, Ken Dartley, a member of Post 86 and a local resident, contacted the Madaras family about starting a collection of soccer balls to ship over to Iraq in Nick’s memory. From this idea, Kick for Nick was born, and to date, over 52,000 soccer balls have been sent to over 46 countries. Each ball is signed PFC Nicholas Madaras and deflated before being shipped. In addition to soccer balls, they have sent uniforms, cleats, shin guards, nets, as well as personal hygiene and school supplies.

Nick connected with younger people, here’s an example. One of his duties in Iraq was escort for his commander. Every week, the commander met with local leaders in a certain town. Nick’s job, among others, was to secure the vehicle in which they rode. One day, as he was standing by the vehicle, a little boy of 6 came running around the corner of a building. Close on his heels were three older boys. When the little boy saw Nick, he ran right to him and stood behind him. The three older boys stopped and Nick just shooed them away. The boy immediately started talking to Nick, and though he spoke no Arabic, listened and answered the boy when it seemed appropriate. The boy speaking no English, just kept up the conversation until the Americans left. The next week, the boy appeared and continued his conversation with Nick, who continued to “answer.” This went on for several weeks, with Nick’s buddies naming the boy Ned. No one knew what was ever conveyed by Ned, but Nick just conversed as if they were best of friends, which they had become.

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Tom Moore, Adjutant
American Legion Post 86