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Players cherish giving back at Mike Herman Memorial Soccer Camp

Nate Thompson • Jul 21, 2015 at 11:01 AM

“I remember he really pushed us at practice,” he aded. “He was constantly expressing his love for the game and it wore off on us.”

Vanderlaan, an upcoming senior at Grand Haven High School, recently committed to play Division 1 soccer at Oakland University.

“He was one of the first players to really put a spark into my soccer career,” Bennick added. “And now to be able to give back like he did, it’s makes you feel great about yourself.”

Bennick and Vanderlaan are now following in Herman’s footsteps, as they’re lending their time at teaching skills to the soccer standouts of tomorrow at a youth camp in Herman’s honor. Both are expected to star for the Bucs on the soccer field this fall as well, much like Herman did.

Herman was killed in an automobile accident during his sophomore year at Grand Haven High School in 2005. Since then, he’s had a soccer field in Ferrysburg named in his honor, as well as a scholarship fund, and now, the largest youth soccer camp in America.

In the fourth year of the Mike Herman Memorial Soccer camp — offered free to any child going into grades 2-8 — attendance numbers continue to sky rocket. Camp organzier and founder Jon Dault said initial figures indicate the camp has already exceeded totals of over 600 last year — which set a world record. The camp concludes today at Buccaneer Stadium.

“We started this camp just three years ago and the first year we had 267 kids,” Dault said. “This year we’re at 730 kids.”

“How do we maintain it?” Dault said. “It involves praying a lot and begging alot. Unfortunatley, no one here are professional donation seekers, but the camp is all run on private donations. Fortunately, we’ve had a couple generous private donations that have funded it. And it does cost around $14,000 to run this and it’s getting more expensive every year.”

Still, the opportunity to provide kids with a fun three days of skills, provided by guidance from 100 volunteer coaches is worth the price tag, Dault said. The smiles and laughter were evident on Tuesday, as it was designated as “hair day” and “sock day.” The variety of bright shin-high stockings, and dyed and mohawk-style hair-dos stood out as the campers steadily went through their drills.  Also, to beat the mid-80-degree heat, a few volunteers were equipped with Super Soaker-style squirt guns to cool off some unsuspecting campers.

Each camper also receives a free soccer ball, T-shirt, and if needed, a pair of soccer cleats, Dault said.

At Tuesday’s afternoon session, instructors covered it all, including the proper way to scoop up a loose ball as a goalie, to passing, ball handling, shooting and header drills.

“All of our volunteers have played premier level soccer and above,” Dault said. “And we also have some pros here, so the volunteers are also getting some coaching tips.” 

If Herman were alive today, Dault feels he’d be proud at what the camp has accomplished in a short time.

“If Mike would have been alive today, he probably would have started this camp on his own,” Dault said. “This is exactly what he what he was all about. He loved giving.”

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