IT’S not every day the chief executive officer of Queensland’s largest Catholic charity interrupts your Saturday-morning soccer session to hand you an award.
But that was the scenario for 21-year-old Daniel Ingledew, who last year received a surprise award from the St Vincent de Paul Society’s Queensland chief executive Peter Maher in the middle of a soccer game.
Mr Ingledew received the Vinnies Value award for his voluntary commitment with Soccer Stars, a youth program that offers a free soccer game for children who can’t access sport.
He was running the last soccer session for 2017, his 25th for the year, when “the CEO of Queensland Vinnies rocks up”.
“They unveiled this award to me and I just couldn’t believe it,” Mr Ingledew said.
“You get a lot of out of it in terms of fulfilment and enjoyment but you don’t do it to get a certificate or anything.
“It was just a really pleasant surprise.”
But for Mr Ingledew, who last year graduated with a degree in psychology, the real reward is seeing how the program was changing the lives of its young players.
He said most of the children, aged eight to 13, had little access to group sports, which was crucial for a child’s mental development.
“I did a bit of sport psychology in my last year of uni, but mostly I learnt it from interacting with the kids,” Mr Ingledew said.
“You learn a lot about not only how to play the game but also how to interact with other people on a social level and it builds character psychologically as well.
“You see the joy on their face when they are performing better and you can see them interacting with the kids a lot better and just having a lot more fun with it.”
As well as providing a free game of soccer, children receive shin pads and socks at no cost, and morning tea.
A former student of Villanova College, Coorparoo, Mr Ingledew said he joined Soccer Stars after looking to do charity work after high school.
“I thought Vinnies would be a great place to start,” he said.
He eventually found a calling in Soccer Stars, which was started in 2015 by Vinnies youth engagement and development officer Anthony Forshaw, who is originally from England.
Mr Forshaw said soccer was “a rite of passage” for many children back home.
“Whereas when I came over here loads of children just didn’t play and I did a little bit of research and a lot of it is the cost (because) it’s very expensive,” he said. “That’s when I got in touch with Dan and said I wanted to start this program.
“Dan’s kind of taken it from there really.”
About 20 children are enrolled in the program at Moorooka, which is held every second Saturday by Mr Ingledew and a team of volunteers.
Another 14 attend the program in Zillmere.
Mr Forshaw said the program often received referrals from members of different Vinnies conferences throughout Brisbane.
“We get referrals from conference members who respond to calls for assistance in the community; they can sometimes identify a child or a family who may benefit from the program as well,” he said.
As well as kicking goals on Saturdays, young players also get to watch Brisbane Roar home games.
Mr Ingledew said a couple of their young players had huge potential for a career in soccer, a talent that without the Vinnies youth program may have gone undeveloped.
“There are some who do it for a run-around and a social aspect, but we’ve got a couple who are insanely good,” he said. “For some it’s their goal to go pro. I reckon they can make it if they try.”
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