Opening the Door

Founded in 1972 in Monticello, Iowa, Camp Courageous serves as a camp for individuals with special needs and of all ages and backgrounds. Today, Camp Courageous consists of nearly 400 acres of land and 33 buildings and serves nearly 10,000 individuals with special needs on an annual basis.

Part of Camp’s recent growth has included the creation of a multipurpose field, a recreational facility that includes various sports opportunities for campers of all abilities. “We have one main little field that we were using for everything from kickball, soccer, slip and slide, and everything in between,” explains Kaite Ryan, assistant program director at Camp Courageous. In 2019, Camp Courageous annexed the United Methodist Camp next door, which was shutting down. The annex gave them the space they needed to create a multipurpose field.

“The first thought was just to put a baseball field out there and make it multipurpose so we could play multiple sports on it,” Kaite says. “We thought, ‘What else can we put over here to make a difference?’” The team brainstormed about volleyball, Pickleball, and a soccer field. “The biggest thing for soccer was just going to be having field area that was a rubberized surface or an acrylic surface that campers could play on and not have any barriers.”

What came next might have been an act of fate for Jeff Pitlik, who Camp Courageous CEO Charlie Becker describes as essentially a full-time Camp Courageous volunteer since his retirement from Rockwell Collins several years ago. “My wife and I were watching TV one night and there was something that said that Marion, Iowa had a Mini-Pitch System® put in by Musco Lighting,” says Jeff.

While he knew of Iowa’s Musco Lighting, Jeff had never heard of a mini-pitch, which was designed by engineers at Musco Lighting and is the U.S. Soccer Foundation’s preferred mini-pitch system. Made of galvanized steel, the mini-pitch comes with lights, lockable storage, built-in goals, and benches to watch play unfold.

Shortly thereafter, Jeff and his wife took the drive to Marion to check it out. “I looked at it and I thought, ‘That’s got some real potential.’ It would be large enough, but yet small enough that those with disabilities don’t have to run the whole court. So, we thought, ‘Wow, that’d be a really cool fit to what we’re trying to do.’”

green mini-pitch with lights and steel gates t sunset
The mini-pitch at Hanna Park in Marion, Iowa

Jeff brought the idea back to the group and it didn’t take long before the team had agreed that a mini-pitch should be part of Camp’s multipurpose field plans. Thanks to additional funding from Iowa’s Kick It Forward (who also helped fund the mini-pitch project in Marion that first got Jeff’s attention) and Target, everything was falling into place.

“For this project, the three of us met at least once a week (Friday mornings at 7 AM), and there wasn’t a day that went by in between that we weren’t talking on the phone and emailing,” recalls Charlie. “Jeff is super organized and stays to a process that keeps us all moving in the same direction. Kaite is also extraordinary. She brings the enthusiasm and excitement of the campers to the table. She is a go getter and has opened many wonderful doors for Camp.”

“The reason that we really were pushing for the mini-pitch is because it makes sports barrier free for our individuals,” says Kaite. “Meaning there’s not a surface, there’s not something that’s going to stop them from being able to play, which is what Camp Courageous is about: giving individuals opportunities no matter their ability.”

Another key element about the mini-pitch that appealed to the Camp team was the nature of the enclosed system. “We thought, ‘How cool…this means that the ball will always be in play,’” says Kaite. “Sometimes if the ball goes away from our campers when we’re playing, their attention span is gone, and they’ve moved on.

“This will just open our doors so much more to different programming and being able to try soccer where maybe they wouldn’t be able to because they utilize a walker or a wheelchair,” she continues. “And the grass kind of stops them from being able to move as fast as maybe another kid would be able to.”

Six-year-old camper Chance is a goalie and has been playing soccer for five years with Special Olympics. “It’s hard to keep the ball in play on a regular soccer field,” he says. “Grass makes it harder to roll the ball and you can lose it.” He’s most excited about getting to play on the mini-pitch at Camp with friends. “Everyone has different abilities,” he shares, “and everyone has different ways of playing.”

Sean is a counselor at Camp Courageous and also notes the importance of control for campers. “With this mini-pitch, campers can be in control of the ball,” he says. “That element of control is not something that campers necessarily have in other aspects of their lives, which is what’s exciting about the mini-pitch and the opportunity for continuous play.”

While the excitement for the mini-pitch was palpable, bringing the mini-pitch to Camp did not come without a hitch. But the ability of all partners to work together for important change has been a key element of the process.

While the mini-pitch system’s gates are ADA-compliant, they were not accessible for individuals in power wheelchairs due to the width and the larger nature of power wheelchairs, whose wheels curve out at an angle.

So, Camp Courageous worked with engineers at Musco Lighting to adjust the width of the gates to 42 inches to make the entry points more accessible. This new width will also be the standard width for all mini-pitches going forward.

“This project really helped us move that process forward and say, ‘You know what, we want to make this a universal design so that anyone can play,’” says Musco Lighting’s Karen Ventura. “We talk about inclusivity and that includes everyone. This change is really significant.”

multipurpose facility at camp courageous with mini-pitch, two pickleball courts, and a baseball field
The multipurpose facility and mini-pitch at Camp Courageous

“I was extremely impressed with the folks at Musco,” says Charlie. “There were several times they could have said, ‘We can’t do that,’ but instead they greeted our questions and ideas with open arms.”

Kaite is also excited about the new development. “Adjusting the width of the gates will allow our individuals to be able to get in and out independently, which is really important. It’s something that we really try to focus on is making sure that the campers are as independent as possible.”

“It was really great that Musco worked with us in doing that, and they saw the opportunity that was there for other systems,” says Jeff. “We’re really pleased to say that we’re part of recognizing that issue and bringing it forward, and then Musco jumped on it and put it in place.”

Looking forward, it’s safe to say that everyone is excited about using the mini-pitch.

“I think that it’s really cool to get campers out in nature and outside,” Jeff continues. “With COVID and with everything that’s been going on lately…it’s really kind of a safe haven for campers…I believe this is just a perfect opportunity for the campers to experience and enjoy these new activities at Camp Courageous.”

The U.S. Soccer Foundation is working to make soccer everyone’s game. Its goal is to install 1,000 mini-pitches and engage one million children in its soccer programs by 2026 – the year the World Cup comes to North America. To learn more, visit itseveryonesgame.org.

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adidas

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adidas, the Foundation’s Safe Places to Play – Mini-Pitch Partner, supports providing children in underserved communities with safe play spaces nationwide. adidas strives to be the globally leading and most popular sporting goods brand. Dedicated to innovation,  adidas embraces creativity and seeks to be socially responsible in all facets of its brand. For more information, please visit adidas.com.

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CHA Sports, the Foundation’s Supplier for Soccer Facility Design and Planning Services, provides community partners with expertise in soccer facility design. CHA Sport’s full service approach allows the company to build world-class projects without breaking budgets. For more information, please visit chacompanies.com

The DICK'S Sporting Goods Foundation

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DICK’S Sporting Goods and The DICK’S Sporting Goods Foundation believe that participation in sports makes people better. Since 2014, DICK’S and The DICK’S Foundation have pledged more than $100 million to support youth sports teams and leagues in need.  Through our Sports Matter initiative we strive to increase awareness for underfunded youth athletics nationwide and provide much-needed support through equipment, uniform and monetary donations. For more information on Sports Matter, visit SportsMatter.org.

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GEICO is committed to impacting local communities through Educational programs, Community Development projects and Equity & Inclusion initiatives. To date, GEICO has donated to 7,000+ charities and averaged between $6 and $8 million in annual giving over the last two decades. To learn more about GEICO’s commitment to the community please visit www.geico.com/about/in-the-community.

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Kwik Goal, the Foundation’s Official Supplier for goals, seating, boundary equipment, training equipment and coaching accessories, will be supporting a variety of Foundation programs and initiatives including: Soccer for Success, National Training and the Safe Places to Play program. Over thirty years ago, Kwik Goal was founded on the revolutionary concept of providing transportable goals for coaches at all age levels. Since that time, Kwik Goal has continued to focus on helping coaches and soccer programs create safe and dynamic learning environments by supplying high quality, safety tested soccer goals, field equipment and training equipment to the domestic and international market. For more information, please visit Kwikgoal.com.

Miami Children's Trust

Miami Children's Trust

The Children’s Trust supports Soccer for Success programming in South Florida. The Children’s Trust is a dedicated source of revenue established by voter referendum to improve the lives of children and families in Miami-Dade County.

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MLS WORKS, Major League Soccer’s community outreach initiative, is dedicated to addressing important social issues and serves as a platform for both League and club philanthropic programs. MLS WORKS seeks to establish Major League Soccer as a leader for improving the lives of people through sport. MLS WORKS is committed to improving the communities where we live and play our games by executing national programs and legacy projects, charitable giving campaigns, and undertaking various initiatives in underserved communities.

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Musco

As a proud corporate partner of the U.S. Soccer Foundation, Musco is dedicated to helping the major charitable arm of American soccer create new opportunities through high-quality sports lighting. Their Total Light Control—TLC for LED™ technology is engineered as a system with lighting, structural, and electrical components designed to work together for streamlined installation and long-term reliability. TLC for LED delivers superior field lighting while eliminating glare and spill from impacting surrounding neighborhoods. And Musco’s long-term warranty covering parts and labor means U.S. Soccer Foundation partners don’t have to handle any maintenance on their system, or pay for it, for 25 years. Visit https://ussoccerfoundation.org/grants/ to learn more about the grant program and application process.

SCORE Sports

SCORE Sports

SCORE Sports, the preferred provider of shin guards to the Foundation’s Soccer for Success program, is a family-owned and operated business specializing in sports equipment, uniforms and apparel. SCORE is an industry leader and has been involved in the sports community for over 40 years. SCORE outfits athletes with high-quality uniforms that SCORE develops, designs and manufactures in the U.S. SCORE takes pride in working with various non-profit groups and causes to give back to athletes who may need some extra support to play the game they love. SCORE is environmentally cautious with the materials it uses for its products and does its part in minimizing our environmental footprint. SCORE proudly offers a wide variety of products to provide customers with a one-stop shop for all your soccer needs. For more information, please visit scoresports.com.

Soccer.com

Soccer.com

Soccer.com, the Foundation’s National Partner for Soccer Equipment and Uniforms, was founded in 1984 to provide high quality soccer gear at reasonable prices through its nationally circulated catalog. Soccer.com embodies a passion for the game that extends to the people who play, coach and support soccer. For more information, please visit soccer.com.

 

 

 

Target

Target

Target announced a national partnership with Safe Places to Play in 2017, along with a $6 million commitment to build 100 new soccer play spaces with the U.S. Soccer Foundation by 2020. This is the latest initiative in the Minneapolis-based retailer’s multi-dimensional approach to the sport of soccer, bringing the game to more kids and families across the country, and unlocking access and increasing involvement at all levels.

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Telemundo

The U.S. Soccer Foundation and Telemundo are joining efforts to advance soccer as a means for helping children in underserved communities reach their full potential, including supporting the Foundation’s signature Soccer for Success youth program, which provides free or low-cost soccer programs during and after school at more than 250 sites nationally. Telemundo will also serve as the first official and exclusive Spanish-language media partner of the U.S. Soccer Foundation. For more information visit https://www.telemundo.com/el-poder-en-ti.

TGI Worldwide

TGI Worldwide

TGI Worldwide, the Foundation’s National Partner for Visual Branding (Signage, Event Décor, Pageantry, Sponsorship Activation), Perimeter Field Board Systems, Creative Services and Event Operations is proud to support a variety of initiatives and programs throughout the United States. Headquartered in the U.S., TGI is an internationally recognized sports marketing company delivering high profile Visual Branding, Live Event Management, LED, and cutting edge Digital Sports Applications to enrich the experience at major events and deliver commercial impact for sponsors and partners. The company has a 20-year history in providing its various solutions for many top-tier domestic and international events, organizations, teams and companies, with proven success and turn-key solutions across 1000+ events, 160+ cities and 50+ countries globally.

For more information on our services, please visit https://www.worldwidetgi.com or contact Mike Squire at msquire@worldwidetgi.com / Phone: 312-371-5852.

World Soccer Shop

World Soccer Shop

Launched in 2001, World Soccer Shop is an online soccer retailer based in Birmingham, Alabama. It carries one of the world’s widest selections of officially-licensed products from the sport’s top brands and teams. World Soccer Shop is passionate about soccer and endeavors to spread the beautiful game around the world, especially to those in areas of need. For more information, please visit www.worldsoccershop.com.

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