EUGENE, Ore. -- The Sheldon High School football team will be holding their very first Irish Football Camp for Students with Special Needs on Friday.
Head coach Josh Line said this is an opportunity for kids with special needs to get involved in football. He said so many kids want to play this sport but aren't able to because of their physical or mental disabilities, and he wants to give them a day to live that dream.
Line says this is a tradition he's bringing from the last school he coached at -- Marshfield High School. He said he loved seeing the kids learn and grow throughout the event, but he also loved the impact it had on his players.
“The focus is for us to have fun with the kids, but obviously a by-product of that is our kids learn a good lesson and they get an opportunity to give back to the community that supports us so much,” Line said.
The players also said they're excited. Incoming senior Patrick Herbert said he can't wait to provide this opportunity to the kids.
“They normally don't get the chance to live life like a lot of people do,” Herbert said. “I think a lot of people don't think of them as the same as us, and I think it will be really good to just let them play football for a day.”
Line said this year the idea was brought to his attention during sign-ups for their youth camp, which is currently running. He said a mother called him saying that her son wanted to attend the youth camp, but she wasn't sure that he should because he had a disability. Line said this situation took him by surprise and made him hurt for the boy. Of course he could attend the youth camp, but it wouldn't be the same experience for him as it is for many others.
“It set in my mind that maybe -- he's certainly welcome to come to our camp and do that -- but maybe we need to make it a special day for them where it's just about them and that being the focus,” Line said.
During the camp, Line said they'll be running every drill they can because he wants it to feel like an authentic football camp for these kids. He said he's excited for them to spend time learning from his players, and he hopes the team comes out of this experience a little more selfless and ready to hold this event for years to come.
“Oh, it feels good just to know that we're doing a good thing for the community and we're giving back to everybody,” said Matthew Burgess, another incoming senior on the team.
It is a free event and sign-ups are still open for kids ages 5 to 20, but there are only 50 slots, so you'll need to move fast. You can find the registration form here.