WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - UNCW men's soccer will host an exhibition Saturday that means as much to the program as any conference game.
They call it Harry's Game.
"Every year, it's one of the highlights of our season," Seahawks head coach Aidan Heaney said.
The game, in its fifth year, was started to help those in the community like his son, Harry, who has Down syndrome, be around the sport and raise money for TOP Soccer, which gives children with disabilities an opportunity to be a part of the game.
"It means a lot to me and my family, but for the community too," Heaney said. "I think we've got a really good thing going."
Duke, North Carolina, NC State, and Wake Forest have all made a spring trip to Wilmington to support the initiative.
"I think it's amazing," redshirt junior goalie Ryan Cretens said. "I personally have an older brother with special needs so I know what it's like. It can be tough, but it's a great reward in the end, seeing all the kids having a great time, kicking the ball around with us. It makes you feel good."
Heaney's son is non-verbal, yet he lights up the team any time he is on the pitch at a practice session.
"When he does come out, it's great. Everyone really gets into it. It's always good to see him," Cretens said. "He's always got a smile on his face, always running around...if you could live your life just as happy as Harry can, it doesn't get any better than that."
Harry's Game is $5 for adults and free for children 15 and under. The Seahawks will play Wake Forest, the 2016 College Cup runner-up.
UNCW has never lost Harry's game, but that is hardly what matters with this event.
"Harry's turning 5. When you go into this, you're learning as you go. We've learned a lot in the past five years," Heaney said. "There are wonderful people in Wilmington who have challenges like anyone else with their kids. Our kids are like anyone else. They want to be loved. They want to be accepted. This game is trying to bring more awareness and help people be more comfortable and understand what some of our children are going through, and embrace them as much as we do."