Everyday Hero: Family starts soccer camp for children with autism 01

Kylee Wunder, 13, plays pass with Taylor Burke, 8, during Moving Mountains Soccer Camp on Thursday, June 8, 2017 at the playing fields near Utah Valley University in Orem. ISAAC HALE, Daily Herald

How time flies. It is hard to believe it has been two years since I first reported about the Moving Mountains Soccer Camp at Utah Valley University. In 2016, their first year, it was difficult to know what kind of registration they would have. However, now that they are going into year three, it is clear Moving Mountains is not going anywhere and instead, is expanding into another arena.

Jenny Wunder and her family are the motivating force behind this organization, but she credits the idea to a little boy named Charlie. “Charlie was 4 years old and loved soccer and was diagnosed with autism,” she said. “He went to a school in Salt Lake with my twin sons, who also are on the autism spectrum. Charlie’s neighbors and friends knew how much he loved soccer but there was a fear of putting him in a regular league because of his potential to run away or act out. Some of the girls in the area who played competitive soccer started a camp where Charlie and other kids like him could learn the game of soccer and play without fear.”

Although Wunder’s boys loved participating in the camp, it was difficult for them to travel to Salt Lake so with the help of Wunder’s daughter, Kiley, and her friends, they are starting a camp in Utah Valley. According to Wunder, “the name ‘Moving Mountains’ came from the Dr. Seuss book that my husband loves to read to our children, ‘Oh, The Places You’ll Go.’”

Moving Mountains is a two-day event for kids between ages 3 and 9 with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Its main mission is to make it possible for these children to experience the fun of playing soccer with the security of working one on one with a volunteer who is trained in working with children on the spectrum. It will be held at the UVU Intramural Soccer Fields on June 14 and 15 from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m.

Registration opened Feb. 8 so anyone interested in participating should visit the website http://movingmountainssoccer.weebly.com to register. This is also where volunteers can register to assist the children. Currently, there are 100 participants signed up, which creates a need for approximately 130 volunteers. Thanks to the generosity of the many sponsors, including Vivint Gives Back and the Utah Valley University Melisa Nellesen Center for Autism, there is no charge to participants for this camp. The growing success of this program over the last two years inspired another parent, Tim Paget, to create the Moving Mountains Basketball Camp, happening this fall.

The long term potential of programs such as these is that perhaps through these events, these children will learn not only skills to play the game, but also skills that will enable them to participate in other sports, side by side with their peers. Then, as Dr. Seuss predicts in his book, “And will you succeed? Yes! You will, indeed! (98 and ¾ percent guaranteed.) Kid, you’ll move mountains!”

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