Kevin Anderson

SMOOTH ROCK FALLS – Patrick Roberts is fairly new to Northern Ontario. Previously a resident of Windsor-Essex County, Roberts retired Smooth Rock Falls in June and quickly began getting involved with the community, not the least of which by becoming a town councillor.

Now, Roberts is focused a new goal – a soccer program for children with autism called “Northern Special Stars”.

“I started a league like this in Windsor about 10 years ago and ended up with 150-200 kids per week,” said Roberts. “When I got here, I asked if there were any organizations working with Autism Ontario and there wasn’t, so I decided to get something going here for kids from Cochrane to Kapuskasing.”

The program already has eight children for its Jan. 26 start date. Sessions will be held at Georges Vanier Secondary School on Saturday’s at 1 p.m.

“We decided to go on Saturday’s because it’s difficult for people to travel during the week,” said Roberts. “All of the equipment including uniforms are supplied thanks to the generous support of numerous organizations and businesses, so all we need is for kids to come out.”

Roberts said the original idea for the club germinated from his observation of how special needs children were being treated in other organized leagues.

“I was on the discipline committee of a league and a situation involving a special needs child with autism came about, which ended up with him kind of being pushed to the side allowed to practice in his uniform but not participate in games,” he explained. “I wanted to see if I could do something to help him out. I sent out some emails and Autism Ontario answered me and that’s how the ball got rolling.”

Roberts himself had little to no experience in dealing with people with autism and said he had to give himself a crash course.

“I spent many a sleepless night, up researching autism,” he chuckled.

The league head said that he believes there are many benefits for children and parents alike who join the league.

“A lot these kids don’t get invited to the types of social functions like birthday parties and whatnot that other kids might get invited to, and a lot of them spend a lot of time alone, so for them, there are new friendships, socializing and a sense of belonging, which is really good for them, not to mention the physical activity,” commented Roberts. “And for the parents, it’s almost like a built-in support group with one and other.”

Anyone wishing to register their child, can contact Patrick Roberts on the “Northern Special Stars” Facebook page, or by email at:

Registration for the session is $25 per player.