Nina Thompson ‘18 is just one of the extraordinary students at Fredericksburg Christian School. She’s a senior, preparing for college, and spends a good bit of her free time ministering to special needs children through the fun of soccer. “I have been attending FCS since freshman year and I instantly knew this school was different from the previous schools I’ve attended. Now as a senior, I realize what I love most about this school is the people who make up the school. Everyone (teachers, students, faculty) is a friend, and it’s so comforting knowing that everyone is there for you and will pray for you. Quite honestly, there isn’t much these people wouldn’t do for you.”

‘What are your plans for college?’ I asked Nina. “I want to get my nursing degree first, and then decide whether I want to be a veterinarian or a pediatrician.”

In her free time, Nina volunteers with TOPSoccer (The Outreach Program for Soccer), which teaches athletics to and mentors special needs kids. I couldn’t wait to learn more. “I get the opportunity to play with these children who have special needs. I get the privilege to talk to them and help all of us get active and play soccer. Sometimes the kids would rather play tag or duck duck goose. Some kids just want a friend to talk to and just want to walk around. As a volunteer, the goal is for the kids to have fun. At that point it doesn’t feel like volunteer work, because you get to have fun too.” Though she has no soccer experience herself, Nina says: “that just shows people that anyone can do it!”

The reason Nina chose to get involved with the TOPSoccer program is a personal one. She grew up with a brother who has special needs. Throughout her childhood, she saw examples every day of how he was treated differently than other kids.

“I did not go into this because I had to. God gave me the experience to help these amazing kids and not to treat them differently.”

Nina wants to make sure that the kids she works with each feel unique, seen, and cared-for. “What I have learned from the kids I get to work with is the little details that people don’t get to learn by a glance. I learn their favorite colors, songs, and even their favorite classes at school. They have taught me that you can literally smile about anything, and even the silliest jokes deserve a laugh. They showed me how blessed I am, that I get the opportunity to be around precious children like them.” Nina’s personal experiences have made her an ideal volunteer for the program. She doesn’t just see disabilities or special needs. She sees kids. Each of them precious and unique in the sight of God.“The kid’s parents are always incredible. It reminds me that most parents would do anything for their kids to be happy. They have taught me that I can be myself and that life isn’t about worrying, but just enjoying. I volunteer because I love every moment I get to hang out with my new friends.”

So what would Nina want you to know about children with special needs? “I think one thing people need to know about special needs children is that they are still kids, and they just happen to have special needs. God just made them differently and they are amazing just the way they are. People should understand that not everyone is built the same way, but we are all intentionally built the way we are. People need to learn how to be more open- minded to that idea.”

Thanks to selfless students like Nina, children with special needs in Virginia are being enriched and cared for every day in a unique setting, learning that they can do anything they put their minds to.

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