In 2013 Canberra native Claire Falls was diagnosed with a vision impairment that changed many aspects of her life.
What it didn’t change was her love for football and borne out of the challenges she faced was the FEVER (Football4EVERyone) Football-a-thon.
Hosted on 2 March, FEVER raised $2,500 for the Capital Football, Football Connect Program.
By Claire’s side through all this has been a supportive and busy mother Shari Maguire. She gives an insight into the formation of FEVER and Claire herself.
There have been several stories produced about my daughter since last year that have referenced Claire’s vision impairment and a little of how it affects her.
However, in my opinion, they have really only scratched the surface when it comes to portraying a true reflection of the Claire that I know.
FEVER is not only an idea that Claire came up with last year but one that she had no reservations in contacting Heather Reid (CEO of Capital Football) about.
Claire will tell you herself that it was very much to her surprise that Heather replied. That reply was all that our “never-say-die” Claire needed to hear before she lit a fire under all of us and FEVER came to life.
In March 2014 I had the privilege of being a part of an amazing initiative.
With the support of Tuggeranong United, Capital Football, and her Ambassador Natalie Forrest of Prime7, the inaugural FEVER Football-a-thon was put together to raise awareness for inclusion, encouragement and respect for players with disabilities.
Claire even organized for Blind Football Australia to come from Sydney so that participants could experience a glimpse of what it is like to play with vision impairment.
FEVER is and was all about attitude, to the point that it made no difference how many goals we scored because as teams we scored one another based on how as a team we displayed Inclusion, Encouragement and Respect.
There was no winner and runner up at the end of the day, instead, there were two teams chosen as having a “winning attitude”.
Teams were a mix of young and old, gender and ability. FEVER took the ‘Dis’ out of disability and we truly were simply teams running on a field for enjoyment and love of the game.
For me FEVER was an all-inclusive day, filled with community spirit, rainbow socks, and laughter, not to mention learning some lessons and supporting a very worthy cause through the funds raised for the Football Connect Program.
It wasn’t until recently that I and others started to become aware of the full extent of why Claire wanted to create FEVER.
I knew Claire had faced some personal peer challenges last year whilst using her audible ball but I had no idea how deeply challenging this, or needing to use any aides, might be for our girl.
It wasn’t until hearing Claire speak at FEVER about her day-to-day challenges outside of football, as well as on the field, that the full impact of this came home to me.
When I heard her words to describe the need for inclusion, respect and encouragement I felt that she hit the nail right on the head.
“Sometimes I get so upset I ask myself why me. I guess this is a big part of what FEVER (Football for EVERyone) is about,” she said.
“You see people shouldn’t have to ask why me, because with a bit of understanding and a lot of education we can all treat one another the same, and show respect for one another’s abilities.”
“If we can all understand that being a little different is ok and not a big deal, then kids like me wouldn’t be asking why me in the first place.”
“It shouldn’t matter who a message comes from or what the message is about. What should matter is what YOU
do about it.”
This one of the many things I love about little Miss Claire. She is has an attitude towards life that is refreshing to be a part of.
It is invigorating to be a part of Claire’s world; this child who could have just as easily chosen to give the game away when she faced her visual diagnosis.
I asked her recently if she felt her first FEVER event was a success the reply that ensued was one of true Claire style.
“Of course it was. It would have been a success if even just one person learnt the importance of inclusion, encouragement and respect.”
Claire was also asked if she had a particular way she wanted that proceeds spent.
Her response “I don’t mind what it spent on as long as it means someone else can be included”.
Call me bias, but in my view this young lady, this 11 year old girl from Tuggies United, this tenacious, inspirational, upfront daughter of mine has an attitude of foresight, maturity, insight, compassion and respect for others and I for one can only hope to grow up to be just like her.
Shari Maguire (aka Proud Mama Bear)