Newly-formed soccer league aims to give children with autism a chance to experience playing sports

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Posted at 6:40 AM, Oct 03, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-03 22:21:52-04

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - It can be a challenge for children with autism to take part in sports, but the Eliza Hope Foundation is starting up a league exclusively for them.

The league is called Hope Stars Soccer League, and it is going to give them that chance and showcase their abilities.

The league will play and meet at Mount Trashmore Park every Saturday from October 10 to November 14. It will also encompass sports, occupational therapy and speech.

The Eliza Hope Foundation, which provides children with autism and their families services and support, is starting the league. It was founded by Aimee Darby, whose 4-year-old daughter Eliza was diagnosed with autism.

She is spearheading the event, and said she is excited to see the league start.

“I will probably cry, because it's amazing to realize that these kids are the same as all the other kids out there,” Darby said. “They have things that are different, but seeing how much joy they bring to their family and friends, we should share that."

Darby said her daughter, Eliza – after which the organization is named after -- was diagnosed with autism at the age of two. She was also diagnosed with epilepsy resulting in seizures.

Darby said it was hard to find sports teams and programs Eliza could participate in. She passed away at 4-and-a-half years old from her epilepsy, and Darby said she was the inspiration for this initiative.

"She is the reason behind all of this and I only know what other families go through because I went through it, me and my husband went through it,” Darby said. “I know she would be proud and would love all of these kids."

The league will consist of two groups – one for ages 4 to 8, and another for ages 9 to 13.

Twelve children are signed so far, according to Darby. It is $70 to sign up a child and includes a Hope Stars t-shirt.

Click here for more information on the league and to sign up.