For many young people, playing youth football is a time to learn new skills, make friends and have experiences that become lifelong memories.
This can be challenging for young people with intellectual disabilities, but Crows Inclusive Academy brought together new football buddies Mario and Curtis.
The Crows Inclusive Academy is a development program for young people with disabilities who, thanks to the support of Variety – The Children’s Charity, can discover their passion for AFL football and train alongside their Crows heroes.
The program gives athletes the opportunity to be part of a team, with each member receiving a Crows Academy uniform and training under the guidance of experienced coaches, Kudos Services occupational therapists, and the AFL and AFLW players to provide a meaningful experience for every child Offer.
Curtis’ mother, Melissa, said Curtis and Mario hit it off immediately.
“Curtis is my social butterfly. He loves everyone and makes friends with everyone,” Melissa said.
“When he sees so many kids, he just lights up and the academy gave him the opportunity to go out and talk to everyone and not get turned down because people get it.
“Mario was the one he kept talking about and to him, fixation on another child means the world because I know it will be a lasting friendship.
“COVID made it difficult to catch up, but he asked over the school holidays if he could see Mario now.
“They both learn new things together and can teach the other person how to be friends.”
Melissa said she’s grateful for the support she’s received over the years from Variety – The Children’s Charity and the Adelaide Crows Foundation.
“Before COVID, we attended Variety’s Easter at the Zoo and their Christmas, so Variety did a lot for him,” Melissa said.
“Without her, he wouldn’t have half of what he has.
“That academy has resulted in Curtis being able to get out there, be independent and share the love he has for everyone.”
Thanks to Variety’s continued support, Curtis, Mario and their Academy teammates played key roles on Showdown 51 as they took to the field for the Guard of Honor.
Like many of the young athletes, this was Curtis’ first time attending an AFL game.
For Curtis, it was just another chance to spend time with his new boyfriend.
“He’s my best friend and we have fun,” Curtis said.
“We like to kick the ball and we like to have fun.”
Crows Inclusive Academy is proudly supported by Variety – The Children’s Charity.