Mark Midson, Arnett’s disability football founder.
After the success of his two autistic boys’ involvement in a Nobby’s beach special needs nippers program, Mark Midson wondered what they could do in winter.
One of his boys had been involved with a soccer side before, but at the age he was at it just wasn’t working out given the competitive nature.
So Mr Midson, along with his wife, Mel, pondered what they could do.
“In the end, we thought there was nothing really out there so if we don’t start it ourselves we will be sitting on the lounge in another 12 months wishing there was something our kids could do,” Mr Midson said.
So with a grant from House With No Steps and the assistance of Edgeworth Football Club, both financial and through its resources, they started the Arnett’s inclusive football program for children with special needs and their families.
Mr Midson did all the organisation of the program and recruited two special needs teachers, Michael Sneesby and Kira Gleeson, as his two “head coaches”.
In its first season in 2017, the program had 24 kids. Training once a week and games on a Sunday.
“Parents and carers get out on the field if need be,” Mr Midson said. “We had a lot of great feedback over the off season and we ran a couple of open days. We got a fair few people come along and out of that we’ve taken our numbers to 56 [for 2018].”
Mr Midson is hoping to see the program extended in years to come and for other clubs to become involved.
“The profile of what we’re doing is imperative,” he said.
“My big picture goal, or dream, is other clubs will see what we’re doing and take it on and do the same thing. One day these kids might be able to have their own network or competition.”
The focus of the program is as much about the parents as it is their kids. It aims to build inclusiveness, interaction and physical activity for disability-hit families.
At the Edgeworth FC launch on Monday night, two Arnett’s volunteers will give a speech about the program. Ryan Bonnet and Tyler Neilson play for Edgeworth U/15s and have been helping the program since their team came down for a training day.
Mr Midson hopes their involvement can help spur others on into becoming involved when the Arnett’s season gets underway in April.
Recently, Mr Midson completed the House with No Steps’ For Fitness Sake 10-day challenge to say thanks for the organisation’s $15000 contribution to the Arnett’s.