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Norwalk Soccer Coach Is a Champion in Our Midst

Look, Mom! No hands, just head, shoulders, chest, knees and toes! That's the mantra for most soccer camps, because the only part of the body that doesn't come in contact with the soccer ball are the hands.

However, at Packer Soccer Camp , it's more than just playing the sport. It's about having fun, exercising, learning to share, listening and knowing what it's like to be a team player. The two-week program for boys and girls ages 5 to 11 years is a half-day program. The Grasshopper program is for 3- and 4-year-olds and is designed to "make learning the wonderful sport of soccer fun and to build confidence through success," said the camp's director, Dick Packer, a Rowayton resident.

The Packer Soccer Camps were organized in 1978 as the world's favorite sport grew in popularity. Packer is a former member of the U.S. Olympic soccer team and the U.S. Armed Forces European Soccer team. He and Darien's Peter Gogolak, former football placekicker for the N.Y. Giants and the Buffalo Bills, saw the need for an environment in which young soccer enthusiasts could enjoy the game.

"After all," said Packer, "soccer should be as much fun to learn as it is to play."

As a result, the Packer Camps provide continuous individual attention, plenty of group exercise and frequent inter-squad scrimmages. Packer supervises every camp with a staff of outstanding coaches. And, he helps campers of every age and ability learn to play and love the game of soccer. It's one of the reasons the program has been singled out and described in the New York Times, Sports Illustrated, on TV and in newspapers. It is a program unlike any other, and campers return week after week, year after year. "We stress skill building — not winning — thus, there is no opportunity to fail," said Packer.

This summer marks the 33rd year in operation. The first week of camp was held at Rowayton Elementary School. The next session is Aug. 8 to 12 and will be held at Middlesex Middle School in Darien. Boys and girls ages 5 to 11 are offered a 9 a.m. to noon experience, while the Grasshoppers enjoy one hour of fun from 10 to 11 a.m.

"We call what we do at our Camps 'Kicks for the Fun of It,'" said Packer. "The kids simply call it fantastic, because they learn in an atmosphere of fun and friends. Our staff members are carefully selected, and many are former campers now involved in collegiate soccer."

"We think parents agree that healthy competition is good for growing boys and girls," said Packer. "We make sure — win or lose — our campers realize their full potential of ability, exercise and fun."

As in the past, a portion of this summer's proceeds will be donated to Haiti Lumiere de Demain , a nonprofit organization that provides textbooks and flashlights for the children of Haiti. Luis Elneus, founder and director of the organization, began working at the Packer Soccer Camp about 15 years ago.

"I noticed his love for his country and a strong desire to make a better life for people on the island," said Dick Packer. "Luis realized that the best way to make change was through education, and so he founded HLD. One hundred percent of donations go to the kids on the island of Ile de la Tortue, located off the coast of northern Haiti, for books and flashlights." With no electricity on the island, the only way for them to read is by solar-powered light.

"Luis's passion is soccer and his commitment to children everywhere is to live and grow in an environment that cares for them," said Packer. "I know that the money is being spent properly. I know exactly where the funds are going and how they are being used."

For more information on Packer Soccer Camps or to register for the August session, call Coach Packer at 203-866-4830 or email him at dick.packer@maritz.com .

Do you have a child enrolled in Packer Soccer Camps? Send your soccer photos to cdonahue@thedailydarien.com and tell us what they think of the camp in the comments below, on Facebook and on Twitter .

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