Memory lives on through Kick for Nick



Amanda Doyle

When 19-year-old Pfc. Nick Madaras witnessed Iraqi children playing soccer with tin cans, bags of rocks and other makeshift balls, he was moved by their aptitude for the sport. While at home on leave in July 2006, he rounded up soccer balls to bring back with him for the children. On Sept. 3, 2006, Madaras was killed in action by an improvised explosive device.

Today, Madaras’s memory lives on through the love of his family, friends and all those who wish to help the situation in Iraq through Kick for Nick.

It is a foundation that keeps his passions alive by collecting soccer balls and sending them to Iraqi children. Recently, Kick for Nick collections and fundraisers have occurred on the University’s campus, mainly because of Kelly Kehoe, a friend of Madaras and a Villanova student.

She has been working on bringing Kick for Nick to the University since its inception in the fall of 2007. Over the winter break, she met with Madaras’s father, Bill Madaras, to discuss establishing Kick for Nick at Villanova. Kehoe hoped that the University community, with its Augustinian values, would get behind this foundation, as it does for so many other causes.

“I was really hoping people would care,” Kehoe said. “Everyone’s really into making a difference here, so I figured if I can get even one ball, it can make a difference.”

So far, Kehoe has collected several hundred soccer balls from students, people from surrounding communities, sporting good stores and local soccer teams. There have also been bake sales and a fundraiser at a Kixx game in Philadelphia last Saturday where a signed T-shirt was raffled off in order to raise money for Kick for Nick.

Kehoe acknowledged that the success of Kick for Nick here was due in part to the help of a management class group that saw a segment about Madaras and the collection on ESPN and chose it as the nonprofit organization it would work with. This was before they knew Kehoe was attempting to do the same thing on campus.

“They have been a lot of help,” Kehoe said. “It’s been easier to get [Kick for Nick] started.”

Kehoe attended the same high school as Madaras in Wilton, Conn., a small town where the collection got started. The initial idea for the collection was proposed to Bill Madaras by Ken Dartley, a Korean War veteran who read about Madaras in the newspaper.

They set up a net outside the American Legion in town and thought that the collection would last a couple of months, with the several balls they donated being the only ones in the collection net.

By December 2007, they had collected over 1,500 soccer balls, mostly from the people of Wilton.

Kick for Nick collections can now be found in over 30 states. At first they were started by family members, such as Madaras’ aunt, and friends, like Kehoe, who went away to college.

Now, people moved by Madaras’ story are starting collections.

In an e-mail, Dartley expressed his excitement over the way Kick for Nick has taken off and established itself.

“We are all very pleased with the national response to the program and to the work being done by everyone to keep Nick’s dream alive,” Dartley wrote.

Here on campus, Kehoe is planning to continue the collection, which can be found in the main lobby of Connelly Center, and also hopes that the University will see a Kick for Nick soccer tournament by the end of the semester.

“I know all the Villanova kids want to help out,” Kehoe said. “It’s great getting all the support because people actually care.”

As for Madaras’ dream, it lives on through the help of family and friends. His name can be found on every soccer ball that is sent over to Iraq. His story is told to the children as they receive the soccer balls. His family hopes that by giving children soccer balls, they will no longer be raised to use violence.

“They’re not making it a political thing,” Kehoe said of the Madaras family. “The idea is that kids would be raised shooting goals rather than guns.”