NEW HAVEN REGISTER: Kick For Nick Coverage

New Haven event will help keep Connecticut soldier’s memory alive, send soccer balls around the globe

By Mary O’Leary,

NEW HAVEN >> A young soldier’s legacy and the veteran who helped keep his memory alive locally will both be honored this week at a fundraiser to benefit children around the world.

Army PFC Nick Madaras of Wilton, a huge soccer fan and youth coach, was killed in September 2006 by a roadside bomb in Iraq. He was 19.

On Friday, which would have been his 30th birthday, a fundraiser for “Kick for Nick” will be held from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. at Trinity Bar and Restaurant, 157 Orange St. There is a contribution at the door of $15 or a soccer ball.

In Iraq, Madaras saw children express the same love for the game that he had, but they were sorely lacking in equipment, starting with soccer balls.

In a brief two-week leave with his family before his second tour of duty, he asked if they could gather up some soccer balls to send to the base where he was stationed.

While he never got to distribute them himself, the Kick for Nick Foundation, has sent more than 46,000 soccer balls, each inscribed three times with Madaras’s name, to 30 countries.

The donations came from people in 47 of the 50 states and the network of distribution has expanded from the U.S. military to individuals and charitable organizations.

The 10th anniversary of Madaras’s death has made national news programs, including remembrances at NBC Nightly News and ESPN Sports Center Feature.

“If I see a child with a soccer ball half way around the world, I know Nick is there with them,” Nick’s father, Bill Madaras, told ESPN.

This is the sixth fundraiser for Kick for Nick at Trinity, which previously was called O’Toole’s Pub.

It is the first one not organized by Mike McCann, a decorated Green Beret combat medic, who served in Vietnam in the Special Forces 5th Group. McCann died in May after a long battle with pancreatic cancer.

A 24-year employee at Southern New England Telephone in its public relations department, he wrapped up his career there as director of media relations.

McCann helped bring area veterans together around the Kick for Nick project, as well as other veteran benefits.

He also helped started the Band O’ Brothers, a group of community minded vets who gather at Trinity, particularly those who enlisted there when the building that houses the restaurant was a recruiting center.

Photos of those recruits are hung in the restaurant. Now McCann’s photo will join Madaras’ as the two exceptions.

Taking up the fundraising responsibilities is James Namnoum, chaplain of the VFW New Haven Post 12150, a new club comprised of veterans who joined after Sept. 11, 2001.

“There was no VFW in the city of New Haven, but there is a strong veteran network in the city. We wanted to start our own thing,” Namnoum said. “It’s not your grandaddy’s VFW. It is not the smoky dungeon thing. We are really active in the community.”

In addition to Trinity, Namnoum, 34, said the post is a sponsor of the fundraiser, as is the American Outlaws New Haven soccer club and the Southern Connecticut State University Veterans Association.

Also contributing is the women’s soccer team at SCSU, Madison Girls Soccer, the CFC Arena in Hamden, while a collection is also being taken up at Yale New Haven Hospital.

“We really enjoy coming together for something that is such a worthy cause. It gets a lot of the community engaged, which is really important,” said Imani Williams, 27, vice president of the American Outlaws New Haven soccer club and an employee at YNHH.

Namnoum, who served in the Marines from 2001 to 2005, thanked Trinity for respecting the past history of the venue by working with veterans on the projects they support.

“We’re just thrilled to still be involved. We are happy to do our bit,” said Eddie Higgins, the co-owner of Trinity.

Namnoum, when he isn’t working on these events, is an oysterman with Norm Bloom and Son at its operation on the Quinnipiac River in New Haven.

An employee for the past eight years, Namnoum said he has done a variety of things there from running the boat to transplanting the bivalves.

Williams said next time she goes to another country for a U.S. soccer match, she wants to spread the word about Kick for Nick.

“A lot of times children in poverty don’t get a chance to be kids,” Williams said.

Tax deductible donations can be made on line at or by check to Kick for Nick Foundation, c/o Bill Madaras, 35 Signal Hill Road South, Wilton, 06897

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