After FC Dallas' 3-1 win over the Colorado Rapids ealier this month, the FC Dallas Special Olympics team played the Colorado Rapids Special Olympics squad in the second match of a doubleheader that evening.
The event was a resounding success, and one part of what made it all possible was the volunteerism of a handful of FC Dallas Youth players. With 10 players on the roster, the Special Olympics team needed a few volunteers in order to accomodate an 11v11 full-field game.
They got the extra players they needed in FC Dallas U-18 ECNL players Jordan Mulnix, Makenna Johnson and Ashley Bishop and ECNL U-23 forward Hannah Higgins [above, bottom row, left four].
"It was an incredible atmosphere," said Higgins, a recent University of Texas graduate who has played for FCD's U-23 team for the past three summers. "I know the [Special Olympics players] were super excited to get out there and play."
Higgins' younger brother is a Special Olympics athlete and her father is president of the Flower Mound Special Olympics. She said as soon as the opportunity came up she knew she wanted to help any way she could.
"I definitely try to give back to Special Olympics," she said. "Whenever I can I try to go out and help coach my brother’s Special Olympics team or just volunteer, whether it’s hanging out with the kids or coming to cheer them on."
That kind of volunteerism is something encouraged through the PRACTICE program, which is a character-building initiative FC Dallas Youth uses to reinforce traits such as Compassion, Respect and Integrity in players both on and off the pitch.
"It was a really fulfilling experience for me," said High School senior Ashley Bishop, a midfielder for the U-18 ECNL team. "[The Special Olympics players] were so pumped to play in the stadium. They were super excited and I think they all had a lot of fun. It was a really good experience for everyone."
With the support from FC Dallas Youth, the front office and the thousands of fans who cheered the team on throughout the match, the Special Olympics athletes got the memorable night they deserved.
"To have the opportunity to play on a professional field in front of professional athletes; I think they felt like superstars that night. For all of us that volunteered, that’s what we wanted; we wanted them to feel like superstars."