Five-year-old Kaylen Hines is looking forward to her second year of playing in the Buffalo Soccer Club Summer Soccer Program, which kicks off next week.
"She loves it," Jeanne Hainesworth said of her granddaughter, a kindergartner at St. Joseph University School on Main Street. "When she first started playing, she ran the other way. Now she's right in there. She has no fear."
Established in 2007 as a pilot program of Algonquin Sports for Kids to enhance the lives of urban kids through sports and educational activities rooted in fun and ethical principles, the Buffalo Soccer Club -- based at the JFK Recreation Center on Hickory Street -- uses sports as a platform to encourage youth and family development in a safe environment.
According to the club's program director, Anna-Lesa Calvert, the program is unique because it gives kids in this area a chance to play soccer.
"It's definitely the only opportunity for soccer that we're aware of on the East Side of Buffalo," Calvert said.
"The focus is on healthy life choices, the development of athletic identity and positive behavior changes," Calvert said. "We're very focused on healthy habits being part of the day-in and day-out curriculum."
Calvert said the program also has a second objective.
"The other portion we're focused on is healthy lifestyle choices, like nutrition and exercise, as well as personal responsibility, self-respect, respect for others and making sure they are responsible for their actions," she said.
The program recently received a $10,000 grant from the United States Soccer Foundation and an additional $2,000 from the New York State West Youth Soccer Association that will be used for additional equipment and other expenses.
The Summer Soccer Program, which runs from May 22 to Aug. 4, is open to boys and girls ages 4 to 14. Registration can be done by mail or in person from 6 to 7 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday at the soccer fields at the JFK Recreation Center.
The cost for the 10-week session is $50. That includes training, a soccer ball and a uniform for participants.
Because of the grant money, Calvert said, the club will be able to provide additional equipment and coaching, and if a player attends 80 percent of the session, he will be allowed to keep the soccer ball at the end.
For more information, contact Calvert at 408-8738 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.