Calmer days in Iraq and parts of Afghanistan mean the charity started in the name of a fallen Wilton soldier can take its game beyond giving Iraqi kids soccer balls and actually help equip them for league play.

Kick for Nick got started shortly after its namesake, Pfc. Nick Madaras, was killed in Iraq. The aim was to fulfill Nick’s dream of giving soccer balls to the Iraqi kids he had seen playing in the streets with tin cans. Now the troops who distribute the soccer balls want additional equipment too.

"I just sent 30 pairs of cleats to someone in Iraq Monday," said Bill Madaras, Nick's dad, who handles the charity's operations, along with Nick's mom, Shalini, sister, Marie, and brother, Christopher.

A man in Indiana just donated nearly 70 uniforms, and now the charity is collecting goal nets. "They can build their own frames, but they need nets," Bill said in an interview Tuesday.

Nick Madaras, a 2005 Wilton High School graduate and huge soccer enthusiast, got the idea to collect soccer balls from home to give to Iraqi kids when he was home on leave in July 2006. Three months later, on Sept. 3, 2006, Nick died in an IED attack while on patrol in Baquba, Iraq. Shortly after that, a fellow Wiltonian, Ken Dartley, approached the Madaras family to inquire about fulfilling Nick's dream, and the charity got its start.

At first, the charity got a list of troops who might be willing to distribute balls in Iraq from Gen. David H. Petraeus' office. Now, the troops come looking for the charity. "It's amazing how many soldiers are aware of the program from being in Iraq, and when they get sent to Afghanistan, they email us asking if we can send them balls."

In Iraq, where some of the actual security work is done by other countries, American troops who are working on civil affairs now request equipment to run organized soccer leagues. "The National Guard troops there do a lot of civil affairs work," Bill Madaras said. "They contact us looking for ways to extend the impact they have."

The charity makes it all work with cash donations, packing materials donated by Storage Deluxe in Wilton, help from friends and donations of balls from all over the country. The biggest expense is postage, Bill Madaras said. It costs about 65 cents per ball, and they send between 300 and 800 balls a month. Kick for Nick's greatest need? More soccer balls. "You can give a soccer ball to any kid in any location and it gives them something to do," said Bill Madaras.

Used or new soccer balls can be dropped off at the donation basket in front of the American Legion, 112 Old Ridgefield Road, Wilton, across from the library. For more information, see

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