Recently I tweeted, in passing, that I hoped the MLS players wouldn’t strike (they were at the end of their contract at the time) because James had saved his money and bought his first Whitecaps season ticket. It was just a passing thought, but shortly afterward I received a DM from the Whitecaps account asking if they could contact me by email.
There followed a lovely email exchange and, to cut a long story short, James was invited to go and see a Whitecaps training session at the UBC training ground. He went along with his brother Joshua, and they both had a fantastic day out.
First of all, they received a tour of the training facility – including the dressing rooms and players ‘lounge’ & as you can see they made themselves quite at home!
After the tour James and Joshua went out to watch the training session itself. The rain didn’t put them off at all, and they watched the entire session to the end. As the teams were finishing up, the boys were asked if they’d like to meet the players and, as you can imagine, they didn’t need to be asked twice.
What made the boys feel especially special was the way in which all of the players lined up to shake their hands. James said it made him feel really important. Every one of the players took the time to shake hands and exchange a few words with both James & Joshua, and it made James’ day that he got to pose for photos with Kendall Waston, Pa-Modou Kah, Kekuta Manneh, David Ousted and coach Carl Robinson.
After the training session James had planned to go to the Whitecaps office to pay for his Champions League tickets (if there’s a Whitecaps match James has to be there!) and Joey, who had accompanied the boys at the training drove them to the offices and gave them a tour there as well.
I had only one problem with this – James has taken to name dropping at every opportunity! The next day, when Bob Lenarduzzi was on the TV James said: “When I spoke to Bob Lenarduzzi at the Whitecaps office yesterday he seemed very nice – had I mentioned I was talking to him yesterday?” As if all of the attention and the tours weren’t enough, James day was rounded off when the Whitecaps staff gave him one of the new official shirts.
I really cannot convey how much all of this meant to James and subsequently meant to all of us. When he was a baby, James suffered a stroke and as a consequence has cerebral palsy. In James case, this affects the right-hand side of his body, so he has limited use of his right hand and leg. He has been passionate about soccer since he was just a little lad and played at every opportunity. However, as he became older and speed and competitiveness became an issue he was no longer welcomed onto teams and had to stop playing the game he loves. On top of this he has autism, and because of the CP & autism he was bullied every day at school and suffered from low self-esteem. He didn’t want to leave the house; he didn’t want to talk to people, he didn’t want to socialize at all.
Now, because of the Whitecaps, he is going out to matches, talking with people and has emerged from his shell.
Thank you so much to the entire Whitecaps team – on the field and off – you can’t imagine what a difference you have made.