Many in Wilton are familiar with the national foundation Kick for Nick, perhaps because they’ve 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 one of Wilton’s own fallen heroes, Nick Madaras.

Nick had a passion for soccer that transcended political, cultural and religious differences. When stationed 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.

As a way to honor him, the ‘Kick for Nick’ Foundation will be hosting its 10th Annual Nick Madaras Memorial Day Challenge, the annual round robin tournament, at Kristine Lily Field, this Memorial Day (Monday, May 30) at 12 p.m.. Played between local teams and a team comprised of Nick’s teammates and best friends from his life, the tournament celebrates his passion in life, soccer, while bringing the town together to honor its veterans and fallen heroes.

Anyone interested in assisting the foundation can toss a soccer ball into the net set up outside the American Legion, Post 86, Old Ridgefield Rd., or bring a ball to the match on Monday. Also, financial donations (to help cover the cost of shipping all those soccer balls overseas) are welcome at the Kick for Nick website.