LAWRENCE — Like many teenagers, Oriagna Inirio thinks the World Cup is cool, but it’s the 16-year-old’s perspective on why it’s cool that sets her apart.
As longtime member of Beyond Soccer — a Lawrence program dedicated to promoting healthy living, leadership and academic achievement through the sport — she knows that what the rest of the world calls football can lead to some pretty great things.
“You get to know so many people from different communities,” said the Lawrence native who started with the program in sixth grade. “I went to a leadership camp in New Jersey and got to meet a professional women’s soccer player. It was great.”
It’s one of the reasons why Inirio was one of the soccer lovers who spent yesterday trying to get the community engaged at Beyond Soccer’s Families United through Soccer Event (FUSE). The day featured mini-soccer games, dancing, games and free food. There was also a viewing party for the Argentina v. Germany World Cup final game.
“It’s our first annual event and we hope it continues to grow,” said Executive Director Stephanie McArdle, who founded the group in 2007.
Beyond Soccer started with a group of 12 girls, ages 9 to 10, that McArdle recruited at local middle schools. According to the group’s website, there are more than 150 kids in both middle school and high school involved with the program today.
With yesterday’s event, McArdle was hoping to expand that number even further.
“The World Cup only happens every four years so we thought this would be a fun way to get people to come out,” McArdle said.
As Inirio, now a varsity soccer player at Fryberg Academy in Maine, can attest the program did what it promised. She said soccer has enriched her life in so many ways that she wouldn’t know who she would be without it.