The Deacon's Bench

A friend from Albany sent this my way, and thought it was worth noting at the close of Respect Life month. It’s a wonderful testament to the gift of life — all life. At a time when 90% of Down Syndrome children are being aborted, this serves as a reminder of what is being lost. (And, as a side note, I can’t help but be struck by the girl’s name.)

From the Albany Times-Union:

Shaker High School’s freshman girls’ soccer team says it has 11 players, 22 feet and one heartbeat.

Gianna MacPhee isn’t the best player, or the fastest on her feet, but she clearly illustrates the team’s big heart.

Gianna has Down syndrome, and her decision to try out for the team came as a shock to her parents. She’d signed up as an eighth-grader after gym one day, and her parents found out when someone else told them.

“We were at a travel tournament when one of our younger daughters’ soccer coaches said, ‘I see Gianna signed up for freshman soccer,’ ” her mother, Virginia MacPhee, said. “Our daughter knows what she wants and goes after it, which is something we always wanted.”

Gianna had played recreational soccer before but never competitively.

From the moment Gianna tried out, coach Michael Brehm let her know she would be expected to do the work. Sometimes the team would practice at 6:30 a.m., sometimes they’d get together at 7 p.m. She would be expected to be on time and ready to play like any other player.

“I told her this is going to be very hard to make a high school team,” he said. “I treat her like any other person. She is an athlete. She’s fun. She works hard. It was a perfect fit for her and the team.”

Somewhere between 30 and 35 students tried out for the freshman team, and Brehm had to narrow the players to 15. Gianna made the final cut. Brehm makes accommodations for her, letting her run a mile and not three. She helps him during practices, before and during the game.

But unlike other disabled athletes who serve in similar team manager roles, Gianna also gets to play in some of the games.

In her very first outing, Brehm said, Gianna played as a striker. When the ball came her way, she stopped it and kicked it to midfielder Sarah Cheney.

“She actually passed, and I had the best shot of my life,” Cheney said. The ball sailed into the goal.

“She had an assist on one of the first passes she ever made,” Brehm said. “She definitely is very charismatic. The kids love her.”

Read the rest.

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