While serving in the Army during the War with Iraq, Nick Madaras believed in the power of a soccer ball — the power to forge a bond of friendship with children in a wartorn country. While the Kick for Nick Foundation has sent more than 54,000 soccer balls to 50 countries since Madaras’ death in 2006, that effort recently made its way back to his hometown of Wilton.
Last fall, the foundation created the Kick for Nick Soccer Academy, which will be the beneficiary of a generous grant at the Kick for Nick Memorial Day Soccer Challenge at Wilton High School’s Kristine Lilly field at 11 a.m. on Monday, May 27.
The soccer academy is an effort to enable children from less-privileged areas — in this case Bridgeport — to participate in the sport without having to worry about associated fees. The program is in its second year and has grown from an initial enrollment of 30 children to now more than 100 participating.
The goal is to provide the opportunity for skill training in a carefree atmosphere under the direction of qualified coaches. And there is more. It is also about giving kids the sense of belonging to something positive and encouraging within them a desire to participate in community service.
“It’s taking on its own lesson about paying it forward,” Nick’s mother Shalini Madaras told The Bulletin. “It’s getting the benefit and giving it to other kids. It’s a very interesting and dynamic program in that it’s evolved on its own.”
To that end, some of the senior students from the soccer academy in Bridgeport will form the core team for this year’s challenge.
“We are so very excited to say Sgt. Sean Curran , an Army veteran, owner of Curran Volkswagen, Stratford, partnered with Weeks Auto Group, Danbury, to pledge $20,000 to be awarded as a raffle prize at the Kick for Nick Challenge,” Shalini Madaras said.
A gift of $10,000 will go directly to support Kick for Nick Soccer Academy in the winner’s name, and $10,000 will be awarded to the winning ticket holder. There will also be other raffle prizes.
Admission to the challenge is one new soccer ball, five per family. Balls will go Kick for Nick’s global program, and funds toward supporting the Kick for Nick Soccer Academy, enough to support the program for two seasons.
In speaking to the Bulletin, Shalini Madaras said she wanted to keep her son’s legacy alive, particularly for those who have moved to Wilton since Nick died and may not be familiar with Kick for Nick. A graduate of Wilton High School, where he played on the varsity soccer team, he entered the Army at age 18 the summer of 2005. He left for Iraq in February 2006.
While home on leave, he expressed his belief that the best way to forge a bond with the people there was to give soccer balls to the children, to offer them respite from the uncertainty of their lives. He asked his family to send him a few soccer balls, but he was killed before they arrived.
After his death, Kick for Nick was conceived by members of the community, and a net in front of American Legion Post 86 on Old Ridgefield Road has been filled with soccer balls ever since.
More than 12 years later, “his spirit has radiated worldwide in supporting U.S. troops and volunteer efforts fostering peace and stability across the globe by delivering to underprivileged children the joy of play through the gift of a soccer ball in his name,” Shalini Madaras said.
Ticket sales will begin at 10:30 at the game. Information: kickfornick.org.