A goal of helping others: Neil Henry

MERIDIAN, Miss. (WTOK) - Each month, we shine the spotlight on one person who goes above and beyond to help others in the community. This month, we're focusing on a man who's helping special needs athletes play soccer.

Neil Henry first got involved with soccer while his kids were growing up. But when he found out about TOPSoccer during board meetings, he knew it was a program his community needed.

"He's the reason we have TOPSoccer," volunteer Greg Monsour says. "He has been involved in sporting events with his kids and other kids for many, many years, and we're very blessed to have Coach Neil in our community."

The Outreach Program for Soccer is a national program for children and adults with special needs. Six years ago, Henry kicked off the program here.

"The first year, I prayed and hoped that we'd have enough," says Henry. "We had 15 pre-register. We had 16 show up."

The program has now grown to 60 athletes who have nothing but good things to say about the coach and the program.

One of those athletes, Jeannie Null, says she likes her coach a lot and loves playing soccer. The most exciting part for Henry and the players is when they get to hit the field.

"It's nothing like the events because they're so excited with energy," Henry says. "They come out ready to play. So we're winding up our day, their day's getting started because this is something they look forward to."

Another athlete, Dalton Riley, says he can only explain the feeling one way.

"Well, I'm a big Alabama fan," Riley says. "So it feels like I just won my 17th championship ring!"

It's all about giving them the same opportunities as others, and Henry says he's just glad to help provide that.

"They've been watching brothers and sisters play, so this is a program for them. And they really love it and have a good time," Henry says.

"We have grown and given players, special needs players, an opportunity to do things that their brothers and sisters are able to do on a more regular basis," volunteer Ron Reid says. "And that's all because of Neil's caring and servant heart."

If you'd like to nominate someone for 11 Who Care, you may stop by the station to pick up an application or print one from the attached link.