Community Connections held one of its many scheduled TOP Soccer programs over the weekend. One young boy asked for money instead of gifts for his birthday and donated the funds to the program Saturday.

Eight-year-old Cooper Henry decided to ask for donations instead of typical birthday gifts to help support Community Connections so his friend Henry Oswalt and other children would have the opportunity to participate in the group's programs.

Community Connections Executive Director Courtney Leach said she was grateful for young Henry's donation and said Community Connections aims to support children with special needs in the community. Of the programs offered is TOP Soccer, which is available to children between the ages of 3-18 years old.

According to the group's website, TOP Soccer is an adapted soccer program designed for children with special needs.

"Top Soccer provides children the opportunity to participate in an organized soccer program in a safe, positive environment," the group's website reads in part. "The program is designed to give everyone a chance to play, and foster the values of teamwork, pride and accomplishment within each player. Volunteers act as 'buddies' for those who need assistance."

During the match, players are separated by age and also their abilities "to create an equal environment for everyone."

Leach said Community Connections designs its programs to be inclusive for children with special needs to give them opportunities to participate in activities they may otherwise not have access to.

"Community Connections' programs are designed to give children with intellectual and developmental delays and disabilities the opportunity to participate in an extra-curricular activity," she said Tuesday. "We believe all children deserve the opportunity to experience being on a team and building self confidence, gaining social skills/making friends and learning a sport or creative art."

Programs are offered at no cost to the participants and those interested in participating are not required to bring their own soccer cleats and shin guards.

TOP Soccer runs on an eight-week schedule and all are welcome to participate. The Conway matches are held at the University of Central Arkansas Indoor Center from 9-11 a.m. on Saturdays through April 28.

Leach said UCA and Hendrix College soccer players along with Conway Kiwanis Club members and the Conway High School Key Club have volunteered as buddies during matches held thus far this season.

For more information on services provided by Community Connections, visit www.communityconnectionsar.org.