Waterloo Region Record
WATERLOO — Wilfrid Laurier University’s Golden Hawks football team invited some No. 1 fans to return to training camp this summer.
Die-hard Hawks fans from Light House, a Kitchener organization that provides programming for adults with developmental disabilities, came out to University Stadium on Tuesday morning to show their support for their favourite team.
“I just wanted to say I like coming here with my friends and I like to support all of you,” 22-year-old Light House participant Alex Morrison said to the team in an after-practice huddle.
And the team made sure to reciprocate the love by inviting all nine of the Light House fans to do some drills on the field.
Each fan got to put on a team jersey and helmet and then run a football around a defender only to be enveloped by a sea of cheering teammates.
“I think it’s a great opportunity that they accept people with disabilities that come out and … they come and give us high fives and welcome us and include us,” said Kayla Yantha, 18, who attends Light House.
The relationship between the team and Light House started a little over a year ago when Light House co-founder Kyle Craig discovered he knew the team’s head coach from high school — they had played football together.
“He realized I was a head coach now in town and thought this would be an opportunity,” said Michael Faulds, head coach for Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks football.
“It started fairly small with him saying he wanted a couple of his students to interview me and then we worked it into something much bigger — they come out to training camp, they eat in the dining hall with our team and obviously you can see how happy our players are to have them here.”
The team has also invited Light House to its home opener on Aug. 26, against Ottawa.
“This is something that gets them out in the fresh air, obviously puts a smile on their face and you know, it’s really good for our team,” said Faulds. “It makes all of us, coaches and players, feel good inside.”
Light House was founded three years ago by Guelph high school teacher Heather Barrow and Craig, an educational assistant.
“Heather has a daughter with autism so she’s always worrying about what the future looks like for her after high school,” said Craig.
One day the two were chatting about it over lunch and decided to work together to create a day program for people in the same situation.
Light House offers supervised job placement, fun community excursions, cooking classes, guidance when it comes to taking public transit and more.
“For us, the community involvement is so big,” said Craig. “So for them to get beyond the surface and really get involved with the team and be on the university campus and get involved and be around the players … they love it, they just love the atmosphere of it.”