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TOPSoccer Buddy of the Year

Established in 2009, the US Youth Soccer TOPSoccer Buddy of the Year award is awarded for extraordinary accomplishments as a TOPSoccer Buddy. The nominees demonstrate patience, understanding, dependability, flexibility and ability to adjust to ever-changing on-field situations. The Buddy of the Year is also an invaluable volunteer who facilitates the program by filling many roles, including being a coach, cheerleader and role model as well as assisting when needed with administrative responsibilities. Other important qualities of the buddy are engaging players one-on-one, modeling desired behavior and being cognizant of player safety. Buddies assist, guide, direct and teach the game of soccer and its skills while creating a fun learning experience. The national TOPSoccer Buddy of the Year award is announced at the US Youth Soccer Awards Gala, as a part of the US Youth Soccer Workshop.

2009 | 2010 | 2011 | 2012 | 2013 | 2014 | 2015 | 2016 | 2017

2017 US Youth Soccer TOPSoccer Buddy of the Year
East Region – Abbey Wills – Amissville, Va.

2017 US Youth Soccer TOPSoccer Buddy of the Year regional award winners:
East Region: Abbey Wills
Midwest Region: Chris George
South Region: Natalie Bress
West Region: Kenna Cassey

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2016 US Youth Soccer TOPSoccer Buddy of the Year
Region I – Patrick D. Casey – Nokesville, Va.

2016 US Youth Soccer TOPSoccer Buddy of the Year regional award winners:

Patrick CaseyRegion I – Patrick D. Casey – Nokesville, Va.
Patrick D. Casey is a positive role model for many TOPSoccer athletes. Forming a relationship with each athlete is a high priority for him. Casey has been a TOPSoccer volunteer for five years, and has been described as “patient, caring and enthusiastic” by his peers. Casey is a nationally certified TOPSoccer coach, a summer camp TOPSoccer coach and he promotes TOPSoccer at various community events. Moreover, Casey has a 4.1 GPA and he is in the top 10 percent of his class. 
Larissa SeibtRegion II – Larissa Marielle Seibt – Chicago, Ill. 
A TOPSoccer Buddy for the past six years, Larissa Marielle Seibt was one of the first, original buddies for Chicago TOPSoccer. She is a four-year varsity starter and team captain of her high school soccer and swim teams. Seibt has an undeniable interest in helping others succeed and improve their knowledge and skillset in the game of soccer. Seibt is also a member of the National Honor Society at her high school. 
Region III – LeAnne Davison – Greenville, S.C.
LeAnne DavisonLeAnne Davison was a TOPSoccer Buddy for three years, and she was selected as one of 16 rising high school seniors to participate in Furman University’s Emerging Public Leaders program. Currently a high school senior, LeAnne is ranked No. 1 in her class and is recognized as a Clemson Scholar, a Wofford Scholar and a Furman Scholar. LeAnne is also a grade eight USSF referee and she was invited to attend the 2016 US Youth Soccer ODP camps as a referee. 
Region IV – Petra Azar – Santa Ana, Calif.
Petra AzarWith a smile on her face and always offering a helping hand, Petra Azar has a great relationship with her players and coaches as a TOPSoccer Buddy. Azar has a passion for the sport of soccer, and she is known to be early to every practice and game. She is also always offering words of encouragement to her players. Off the field, Azar is a volunteer in the city of Anaheim and a member of the National Honor Society in her high school.

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2015 US Youth Soccer TOPSoccer Buddy of the Year [Video]

Region I – Zachary Saliterman – Mendham, N.J.

2015 US Youth Soccer TOPSoccer Buddy of the Year regional award winners:

Region I – Zachary Saliterman – Mendham, N.J. RI
This fall was Zachary Saliterman’s 13th season in the West Morris SC TOPSoccer program, which his family founded, and his fifth running the program in its entirety. Saliterman has logged over 100 hours as a buddy and director. He handles all aspects of the program, including session plans, recruiting volunteers and players, managing equipment and securing field space. The high school senior continues to offer players a safe and supportive environment to learn the game.

Region II – Claire Bieber – Georgetown, Ky. RII
Claire Bieber has been an invaluable part of the Lexington Youth Soccer Association TOPSoccer program since she began volunteering as a buddy in 2012. She has spent over 200 hours with the program and often shows up early to help set up necessary materials and ensure smooth practices. Bieber helps two teams and has learned it doesn’t take an exceptional player or expert in special needs to help young kids play soccer and enjoy their day.

Region III – Kala Neighbor – Melbourne, Fla. RIII
Kala Neighbor has been involved in the Space Coast United TOPSoccer program for seven years, having begun as a volunteer in sixth grade. She has progressed from being a buddy to both coaching participants and mentoring new buddies. Neighbor has also helped promote TOPSoccer at other events in the community to introduce the program to new families. She is committed to promoting the benefits of the physical activity and relationship-building TOPSoccer can bring to participants and buddies alike.

Region IV – Mary Barnum – Medford, Ore. RIV
Mary is the youngest of three siblings who have been instrumental to the Rogue Valley Timbers TOPSoccer program. She began as a buddy in fifth grade and is in her seventh year in the program. Barnum now recruits new buddies for the program and helps ensure each participant has a buddy at every TOPSoccer session. She is also an accomplished soccer player herself and is a weekly mentor for kids at a local charter school.

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2014 US Youth Soccer TOPSoccer Buddy of the Year [Video]

Region III – Kenny Wilson – Saucier, Miss.

2014 US Youth Soccer TOPSoccer Buddy of the Year regional award winners:

Diego BarajasRegion I – Diego Barajas – Wilmington, Del.
When the TOPSoccer program was introduced to his team, Diego Barajas signed up immediately. He is now in his ninth season as a buddy and has shown the ability to make sure each player has an enjoyable time. Diego is one of the few buddies who travels to assist with an annual TOPSoccer event at the US Youth Soccer Kohl’s American Cup. He gives his time to the TOPSoccer program while also refereeing and playing as a defender on his high school team.

Gordon GardinerRegion II – Gordon Gardiner – Shelby Township, Mich.
When Rochester SC’s TOPSoccer program was about to fold, Gordon Gardiner stepped in and raised awareness through advertising, making phone calls and getting information to schools to help keep it the program active. Typically a competitive coach, Gordon enjoys having fun and giving back to the TOPSoccer athletes, who call him “Shrek.” Gordon believes all kids should have a chance to play soccer, and his efforts have provided that opportunity for many individuals in his community.

Kenny Wilson-1Region III – Kenny Wilson – Saucier, Miss.
Since his local TOPSoccer program began in 2007, Kenny Wilson has been involved as a coach, referee, equipment manager and more. As a father of four, including two children with disabilities, Kenny combines his passion for soccer and understanding of special needs children to share with them his love of the game. He has written a guide on refereeing TOPSoccer and helped promote the program in the community. He has a high caliber of commitment to making the experience best for all involved.

RYAN OLSEN1Region IV – Ryan Olsen – Gresham, Ore.
Ryan Olsen has been a TOPSoccer Buddy for the Eastside Timbers for three years. He is present at all sessions and someone who can always be relied on to help. Ryan demonstrates a natural ability to work with individuals with disabilities, and he makes sure players are included in all activities. He is a positive individual who regularly helps the Eastside Timbers program and supports TOPSoccer by recruiting new buddies to help improve the experience for each player.

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2013 US Youth Soccer TOPSoccer Buddy of the Year [Video]
Region III – Brock Turner – Boca Raton, Fla.
2013 US Youth Soccer TOPSoccer Buddy of the Year regional award winners:
Kayla_MemisRegion I – Kayla Memis – Mullica Hill, N.J.
Kayla Memis was recognized as a "Hometown Hero" in her township for leading the charge to start a US Youth Soccer TOPSoccer program. She is a very active buddy who works well with all players, and she helps the program grow by mentoring and recruiting new buddies. The program she helped start now has 73 active buddies, 63 buddies in training, and 56 participating athletes who have a place to enjoy the game thanks to Kayla’s never-ending effort.
ReLauren Wimergion II – Lauren Wimer – Warren, Ohio
For the past 10 years, Lauren Wimer has been a reliable and dependable volunteer for her local US Youth Soccer TOPSoccer program. She started her involvement when her brother played in the program and has continued to work as a buddy long after he stopped playing. Lauren has helped make sure every child gets a chance to play and has promoted the game in the community. She is also involved in several school clubs and volunteers at the local Children’s Rehabilitation Center.
RBROCK TURNERegion III – Brock Turner – Boca Raton, Fla.
Brock Turner has been involved with the Soccer Association of Boca Raton’s US Youth Soccer TOPSoccer program for the past eight years as a buddy assistant, uniform organizer, buddy captain and equipment manager. He’s given much of his time to TOPSoccer and encouraged those around him to do the same. Brock is active in the community and is a National Honor Society student who is now attending Sacred Heart University on an academic and athletic scholarship.
ReKiley Adamsgion IV – Kiley Adams – Edgewood, Wash.
For four years, Kiley Adams has been a key contributor to the Tacoma Bellamine US Youth Soccer TOPSoccer program. She rarely misses a chance to work with the participants and mentor other buddies. As a volunteer at the Children’s Therapy Unit, she promotes TOPSoccer to patients, many of whom have attended the program. Kiley makes sure every player can participate in whatever way possible and uses her therapy volunteering and playing experience to help TOPSoccer participants improve their skills.

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2012 US Youth Soccer TOPSoccer Buddy of the Year [Video]
Region IV – Laura Ellen Aspelund – Anchorage, Alaska
2012 US Youth Soccer TOPSoccer Buddy of the Year regional award winners:
RWill_Olsonegion I – Will Olson – McLean, Va.
Will Olsen started as a TOPSoccer Buddy as a 9-year-old in 2005 and is now in his third season as a McLean TOPSoccer "assistant director." He manages all aspects of the program, from logistics to matching compatible buddies with players. He continues to volunteer because he believes in the benefits players get from TOPSoccer. Olson is also a member of the U-16 MSC Rapids and a three-year varsity player at The Landon School in Bethesda, Md.
Realyssa king (2) gion II – Alyssa King – Lexington, Ky.
Alyssa King is a valuable member of the Lexington Youth Soccer Association TOPSoccer program, as she has extensive knowledge of soccer and completed an undergraduate degree in special education from the University of Kentucky in December. King has a passion for helping individuals with disabilities and wasn’t afraid to take on a coaching role despite her already busy schedule. She also is a member of the advisory committee and has organized events to promote TOPSoccer in the community.
ReJed1_GOODgion III – Jed Holstine – Chattanooga, Tenn.
For more than 15 years, Jed Holstine has volunteered his time for the betterment of youth soccer. He’s managed to initiate a buddy program that integrates TOPSoccer with local competitive teams, and the program now thrives. He makes sure TOPSoccer succeeds each year and runs flawlessly. Though his daughters finished their competitive soccer careers, Holstine continues to work with TOPSoccer and youth programs while making decisions by answering the question, "Is this best for the kids?"
ReLaura_Aspelundgion IV – Laura Ellen Aspelund – Anchorage, Alaska
Though she’s just a sophomore in high school, 15-year-old Laura Ellen Aspelund has made an impact on TOPSoccer participants, as she encourages players like her buddy, Mark, to try new things and embrace the game and life. In addition to being a buddy, Aspelund is also a certified TOPSoccer coach. Aspelund maintains a 4.0 GPA while balancing her work with TOPSoccer, other volunteer efforts and her own playing career, which included a spot on the Alaska Olympic Development Program team.

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2011 US Youth Soccer TOPSoccer Buddy of the Year
Region I – Chris Przybylowski – West Haven, Conn.

2011 US Youth Soccer TOPSoccer Buddy of the Year regional award winners:
Chris PrzybylowskiRegion I – Chris Przybylowski West Haven, Conn.
When West Haven Youth Soccer started its TOPSoccer program, Chris Przybylowski was one of the first players to join. Now, 10 years later, Przybylowski has evolved into a standout leader and Buddy in West Haven Youth Soccer's TOPSoccer program. As a Buddy, Przybylowski exemplifies the ability to encourage players to work a little harder, inspire them have a little more fun and empathize when things get hard.
RegiAnnie Dunbaron II – Annie Dunbar  Lexington, Ky.
Annie Dunbar has been involved as a dedicated TOPSoccer volunteer in the Lexington Youth Soccer Association for four seasons. As a Buddy, Dunbar has helped improve the social skills, self esteem and soccer skills of the athletes with whom she works. In addition to her time as a Buddy, Dunbar has become involved with the TOPSoccer advisory committee, serving as high school liaison.
RegiCassie Thorlaon III – Cassie Thorla  Boca Raton, Fla.
Cassie Thorla began serving as a Buddy in the Soccer Association of Boca Raton TOPSoccer program as soon as she was old enough to serve in this role. For the five years since, Thorla has displayed a unique ability to relate to and motivate all the players in the program. Inspired by her TOPSoccer experience, Thorla will study nursing at the University of Florida, concentrating on service to the special needs community.
ReRiley Protzgion IV – Riley Protz  Gresham, Ore.
For years Riley Protz played soccer freely while his sister, who suffers from cerebral palsy, watched from the sidelines. Driven to give her the chance to play the game he loves, Protz started a TOPSoccer program in Gresham, Ore., with the help of Oregon Youth Soccer Association and EastSide United F.C. Since its inception in 2007, Protz has served as a Buddy every season.
2010 US Youth Soccer TOPSoccer Buddy of the Year
Region I – Ed Celli – Wilmington, Mass.

2010 US Youth Soccer TOPSoccer Buddy of the Year regional award winners:
RegEd Celli (1)ion I – Ed Celli – Wilmington, Mass.
Fifteen years ago, when Ed Celli's children exited the youth soccer scene, he still had the desire to coach. Celli found his outlet when he came across US Youth Soccer TOPSoccer. He pitched the idea to the Wilmington Youth Soccer board of directors, and since the approval, Celli has been the ultimate Buddy forming a program that has flourished to include more than 93 players and 100 volunteer coaches. He has a special gift of understanding and communicating that adds value for his players.

RJeff Muelleregion II – Jeff Mueller – Minneapolis, Minn.
Since 2004, Jeff Mueller has been a US Youth Soccer TOPSoccer Buddy and coach, establishing strong relationships with the players and their parents. His generosity paired with the time and energy he puts into his TOPSoccer team is evident to his players creating a welcoming atmosphere. Mueller makes a point to be a part of the players' lives in addition to scheduled practices by hosting FIFA World Cup watching parties and giving individual lessons outside of practice.

Region III – The Culbertson Family, represented by Kyle Culbertson – Madison, Miss.
Six years ago, Kyle Culbertson and his siblings Jack, Kate and Brady began volunteering as US Youth Soccer TOPSoccer Buddies. They assist with the South Madison County Soccer Organization helping nearly 150 players in the program. Twice a week, they support visually impaired and special needs games, assisting with any task necessary. Players and their families frequently look for the Culbertsons when arriving at practices and games because of the relationships they have built and their dedication to the program.

Region Lindsay BarnumIV – Lindsay Barnum – Medford, Ore.
In her third year as a US Youth Soccer TOPSoccer Buddy, Lindsay Barnum became the coordinator for all of the Buddies for the program in Medford, Ore. Barnum makes specific efforts to get to know the players and understand their individual needs. Her positive attitude and excitement for the game is contagious adding to the overall experience of each player. Being a TOPSoccer Buddy is something that brings joy and satisfaction to Barnum as she impacts the lives of younger players.
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2009 US Youth Soccer TOPSoccer Buddy of the Year
Lauren Lawless, Kansas State Youth Soccer Association

2009 US Youth Soccer TOPSoccer Buddy of the Year regional award winners:
Region I – Stephanie Lighter – Olney, Md.
Stephanie Lighter has been a Montgomery Soccer, Inc., TOPSocer Buddy for five years. She first served as an administrative intern in preparation for becoming the assistant director. Her commitment to TOPSoccer is exemplified through her dedication to organizing skills of the day, designing new games and willingness to set-up fields for each session. Lighter is involved in the annual TOPSoccer festival. She has not only involved her family, but has recruited volunteers from her high school to help expand the program.

Region II – Lauren Lawless – Topeka, Kan.
Lauren Lawless, a four-year student athlete at Washburn University, has been with Topeka TOPSoccer since its inception. She leads practices for six to eight-year-olds and serves as liaison between the program and Washburn University. As liaison, she coordinated a TOPSoccer night at a Washburn University women's soccer game to honor members of TOPSoccer. Lawless is determined to see the program grow and has encouraged several college teammates to volunteer. To end the first season, she sent handwritten notes to thank players for their participation.

Region III – Kailey Boyer – Acworth, Ga.
Kailey Boyer joined Cobb FC TOPSoccer at the age of four to support her sister, and by nine, she had fully embraced the program acting as a Buddy to other youth in the program. Now 14, she is an advocate for TOPSoccer as she works to get others in Acworth, Ga., and surrounding communities involved as volunteers. Each season, Boyer takes on additional responsibilities by coaching teams, helping with registration and setting up and running skill drills at practices.

Region IV – Ken Dandrea – Placentia, Calif.-South
Ken Dandrea has been a part of Junior United Soccer Association TOPSoccer for 18 years, beginning when he signed his son up for the program. Since then, Dandrea's role has expanded to include coach, mentor to new buddies and advocate for the program. He is active on the Cal South TOPSoccer Fest committee and has been an instructor for the TOPSoccer coaching certification course. Dandrea is patient, dedicated and committed to the development of players' skills and comprehension of fair play and social skills.