Tonight, the Rider University men’s soccer team will host The College of New Jersey in an exhibition game to prepare for the 2013 season. However, starting at 6:30 p.m. on Rider’s Ben Cohen Field, a preliminary game will be played that could help prepare its players for the rest of their lives.
The preliminary game will be played with the addition of several children with special needs, in conjunction with Mercer County Special Services School District.
“Children with special needs bring out the best qualities in people, and they give us a chance to show how kind we can be if given the chance,” said Rider head coach Charlie Inverso, the father of a special needs child. “We can learn a lot from special needs children, like how to live in the moment, not to worry so much about wins and losses and how we are really all created the same way.”
The preliminary game will be a 30-minute contest starting at 6:30 p.m. Playing with the TCNJ Lions will be 11-year-old Ayanna Wright-Hailstock, 11-year old Zachary Vena, 12-year-old Noah Ward and 11-year-old Theodore “Ty” Lewis.
Playing alongside the Rider Broncs will be 10-year-old John Lewis, 12-year-old Davon Baxter-Davis, 13-year-old Coby Gunning Mackie and 9-year-old Dhruv Jain.
“Don (Rider Director of Athletics Don Harnum) has encouraged all of the teams to get out into the community to form bonds and relationships with the area residents,” said Inverso, a college soccer coach in Mercer County for over 25 years. “We took this idea from the (University of) Nebraska football team’s spring game.”
The Nebraska Cornhuskers suited up a 7-year-old boy with brain cancer in the annual Red and White spring scrimmage and he ran for a 60-yard touchdown in front of 60,000 fans. The event earned an ESPY award.
“We are hoping the entire community comes out with signs, noisemakers and tons of energy to pump up the players participating in this game,” Inverso said. “We’d like to thank TCNJ, Freeholder Pat Colavita, and Angie Cacciabaudo of Mercer County Special Services School District for their help. I want this to become an annual event.”
Rider and TCNJ, playing a special scrimmage with special kids.