DEVON YADA'S room is as messy as most 13-year-olds' rooms, but his soccer trophies are perfectly ordered and proudly displayed on a shelf. He has autism, but thanks to Taylor Bell, a senior at Pulaski Academy in Little Rock, Devon and other children with mental and physical disabilities can play soccer in a program designed just for them.
Bell (near right, with Devon), a two-time captain for Pulaski who had periodically volunteered with special-needs children, founded Total Outreach Program for Soccer (TOPS) before his freshman year. "My best memories from childhood are of playing soccer with my friends," says Bell. "I wanted all kids to have that opportunity." He recruits classmates to be volunteer coaches for eight-week clinics in the spring and fall and for a one-week camp during the summer. TOPS started out with 15 girls and boys just playing sharks and minnows, but now more than 50 children are divided into three age groups during tightly organized one-hour sessions. Bell will graduate in May and plans to study physical therapy or sports medicine in college, but he has recruited four students and six parents to serve on an advisory council to continue TOPS. More than 100 kids have benefited from the program, and after years of moving from field to field, they now play on the same ones as other Little Rock recreational teams. Says Bell, "The kids can look over and say, 'My brother's playing today, and I am too.'"