If you live in Wilton, at some point you need to learn about one of our town’s lost sons, Nicholas Madaras, and the national foundation created in his memory, Kick for Nick. Nick’s story is one of honor, bravery, generosity and family. But most of all it’s a story of how one person can change the world for good.

You may be familiar with the Kick for Nick foundation, perhaps because you’ve likely seen the huge net outside of the American Legion building in Wilton Center, filled with soccer balls. The foundation—which collects soccer balls for American soldiers to distribute to children in countries where they are stationed to increase goodwill—was created in honor of Nick Madaras, who died in action in Iraq on Sept. 3, 2006–10 years ago, this week. Since Kick for Nick was started more than 46,000 soccer balls have been given out, almost all of them bearing the name Pfc. Nick Madaras.

Nick’s passion for soccer transcended political, cultural and religious differences. In Iraq, he was inspired by the joy with which the local children played soccer, despite the need and uncertainty of their lives. Kick for Nick was started to commemorate Nick’s wish to use soccer and soccer balls to communicate with the children in war-torn areas where he was stationed.

“When he went to Iraq, he immediately picked up on the children’s skills. Despite the bombed out buildings, what amazed him more–coming from Wilton and not having a need for anything–he saw that the children were so happy, they were content to play with their little cloth ball, not knowing if they would live from one day to the next, whether their parents would be alive. But it was that immediate connection of kicking that soccer ball with them. That’s why he said, ‘Send me some balls so I can share it with them.’ That was Nick’s level of communication–he couldn’t speak their language, they couldn’t speak English. Immediately they connected because of soccer,” Nick’s mom, Shalini Madaras, told GOOD Morning Wilton in a profile we ran in 2014.

Very recently, Kick for Nick sent a little piece of Wilton to another place far away where it will do some amazing good. Amanda Good, a friend of Nick’s sister, Marie, works for an organization in Rwanda called Hope for Life, a faith-based non-profit that helps homeless children in the poverty-stricken areas of the country. Marie asked Bill to send soccer jerseys and gear to her friend for the boys living at the Hope for Life center.

Bill put together a shipment to send, complete with several jerseys and pinnies, and soccer balls, all donated by Wilton residents. In return, just a few days ago, Bill received a letter and some photos from Amanda:

To friends at Kick for Nick,

Hello from Rwanda! We hope this email finds you well! We are sending an overdue thank you! We have been waiting to give the boys the jerseys because they are such a special gift. Our boys were absolutely over the moon to receive them! Your balls and jerseys are being put to such good use! You’ve made some happy boys! The pinnies are being used for both basketball and soccer too! Funny enough, our kids absolutely love wearing the pinnies. I actually think most of our kids join the game just to wear one. Long after games are done boys are still wearing them around and it usually takes me asking for them to ensure they make it safely back into the box. If school uniforms weren’t required here I can see these pinnies being worn to school!

I can’t thank you enough for your support and gifts to our boys. They mean so much to us. Sending hugs and big thank you’s to all at Kick for Nick!

Amanda & Boys of HFL

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The story of Kick for Nick was told in an award-winning ESPN video in 2008 that is shown every Memorial Day and has been seen by millions. But just this week, ESPN aired another video they produced for the 10th anniversary of Nick’s death, telling the story through the eyes of his dad, Bill Madaras. It’s a poignant video that we hope all of Wilton will watch.

To watch the video visit the SC Featured/ESPN website or click the photo, below.

Nick Madaras bill madaras hillside cemetery

credit:  ESPN/SC Featured