September 25th was an inspiring night in Tigertown.
The 3rd Annual Play Action Awards event was all about the young players—the boys who run fast, tackle hard, win proudly and lose gracefully on minor league football fields across Hamilton-Wentworth, Guelph, Burlington and Niagara. It was about their commitment to the game, their courage, and their leadership.
Especially in the case of Erich Foerster, the 12-year-old winner of the Danny McManus Leadership Award.
Erich plays on the Burlington Minor Football Association’s Peewee Ticats House League tackle team. He volunteers as an assistant coach in the Tyke division, helping players aged six to eight years old learn to love the game. He was selected to play on the Stampeders Rep Peewee team this summer. He’s a gifted athlete who stands straight, smiles with a shy confidence and exudes calm strength.
And he was born with only one functioning hand.
Rob Findlay of Findlay Personal Injury Lawyers was thrilled to present Erich with his award on the stage of Hamilton Place. “What an impressive young man,” he said. “At 12 he’s done more than most adults I know.”
David Gagner, director of the House League program for the BMFA, nominated Erich for the award. His glowing nomination letter refers to Erich’s volunteer work with the War Amps CHAMP (Child Amputee Program), his dedication to helping younger players and uncanny ability to sense when others need assistance. “As recently as three weeks ago I was contacted directly by a parent requesting that their child be on whatever team Erich was,” Gagner wrote. “Erich had befriended this child last season and through his continued friendship and guidance has turned this young boy’s life from despair to confidence. What doctors had been unable to do, Erich had somehow managed without the intervention of adults.” At the award evening, Gagner was unequivocal in his support of Erich. “He’s a superior player both on and off the field,” he said. “He’s the reason I do what I do.”
For Erich, it’s all about the football.
He started playing at age eight and remembers being asked by his coach if he had any limitations. Sure, he was missing his left hand and was supposed to be left-handed, Erich says. But he didn’t think of himself as being limited. “They treated me just like any other player,” he says. Today, Erich can’t imagine a time when he’s not involved in the game. “If I’m not playing, I’ll be the water boy,” he says. “I’ll drive the bus to the games. I’ll do anything to be part of football.”
Erich’s mom, Deb, couldn’t stop smiling after Erich won. “I think he’s going to sleep with that tonight,” she said of Erich’s shiny silver trophy. “Football is everything to him. It’s given him confidence and brought out all the things that were already in him. His coaches inspired him, and now he inspires others.”
But while Deb was undeniably a proud mother of an award winner, she was also a realistic mom of a teen boy.
“He still doesn’t clean his room,” she joked.
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