Westport teen organizes 'goal-a-thon' to raise money for special needs soccer

Photo of Amanda Cuda

WESTPORT — Bruno Guiduli has raised more than $2,300 for special needs soccer simply by playing in his front yard. And this weekend he hopes to raise even more.

Guiduli, 16, who will be a senior at Staples High School, he has been kicking goals since last fall into a custom-made soccer goal that he and his dad built in their yard. He broadcasts videos of his goals on social media, which, in turn, draws attention to a GoFundMe page that raises money for TOPSoccer, a community-based training program for athletes with intellectual, emotion and-or physical disabilities.

“I’ve always played soccer,” said Guiduli, who plays for both his high school team and Beachside Premier Soccer Club. “Once I saw TOPSoccer and saw how it helped special needs kids, I wanted to do something to help.”

But Guiduli wanted to involve more people in his philanthropic efforts, and he figured with the state’s fairly low COVID-19 numbers, the time was right. From 8 a.m. to noon Saturday at Westport’s Wakeman Field (with a rain of Sunday), Guiduli will host a “goal-a-thon,” where both players and non-players, children and adults, can try to shoot goals into the specially designed goal.

“I’m not really positive in how many people will come,” Guiduli said. “A lot of kids are traveling. I’m trying to get kids from my soccer team who are home to participate.”

The idea, he said, is not just to raise money, but to raise awareness about TOPSoccer and the work the program does with special needs kids. TOPSoccer was started by US Youth Soccer in 1991, and Connecticut’s program is sponsored by US Youth Soccer and the Connecticut Junior Soccer Association.

Bill Fallon, chairman of TOPSoccer for Connecticut Junior Soccer Association, said the work Guiduli has done in support of TOPSoccer is “fantastic.”

“So many people in this day and age are looking for things to be done for themselves, and here is this young guy in high school reaching out to help others,” Fallon said. “That’s really refreshing.”

He said the program often needs financial support to buy orange cones and other visual aids needed to adapt soccer for those with special needs. Fundraisers such as Guiduli’s help fill that need, Fallon said.

For Guiduli, the goal-shooting is a way to support a good cause while also honing his soccer skills. The goal made by his dad had a sign across it reading “TOPSoccer” with the “O” in “TOP” cut out. The hole is what Guiduli, and other potential goal scorers, have to shoot the ball into.

“It’s actually been a lot of fun,” Guiduli said about using the goal. “I didn’t realize how that small hole was (until he started shooting into it). It’s nice activity go out there play soccer without it being too strenuous.”