FALMOUTH — Passionate about soccer from the time she was a toddler, Lauren Wendland was afraid she’d never be able to play again following a traumatic car accident when she was 10 years old.
Now Wendland, who will graduate with her Falmouth High School classmates at 6 p.m. on June 3, will play Division 1 soccer at Quinnipiac University in Connecticut, where she plans to eventually earn a doctorate in physical therapy.
Wendland is a holding midfielder with the FC Stars of Mass Soccer Club, where she’s played for the past six years. She plays soccer year-round and during the regular season travels four hours, round trip, three times a week to practice.
That time away from home doesn’t include games or tournaments, though, which can be held as far away as Florida and California, she said.
“It’s a big juggling act,” Wendland said, “but I have really good study habits because I’ve had to be so disciplined. I do a lot of reading and studying in the car.” She’s also been aided, she said, by the fact that her teachers at Falmouth High have “been so accommodating and helpful.”
Wendland also credits her parents, Sandra and Corey, for always being “so supportive.” Her mother, a real estate agent, is the one responsible for getting her to soccer practice and games.
Wendland’s father, a corporate chief financial officer, works out of state during the week, but is home on weekends. She said both her parents and older brother, who lives nearby the university, would likely attend every home soccer game at Quinnipiac.
As the result of her accident, Wendland suffered a brain injury that impacts the way she processes numbers, so she’s had to work a lot harder than many of her classmates to keep her grades up.
In addition, she had a broken jaw and her ear canal was crushed. Wendland doesn’t remember much about the accident itself, but knows she was crossing a street in Portland when a driver turning on a red light hit her and dragged her 20 feet before stopping.
She was in fourth grade at the time and missed the last two months of school. During her recovery, Wendland benefited from dedicated occupational and physical therapists who helped her get back on her feet.
That’s one reason she wants to become a physical therapist herself. “A lot of people helped me to get back to my passion so that’s a big part of my interest” in the field, Wendland said.
While the accident was horrific, she said it’s taught her a lot of valuable life lessons, including that “when you’re determined, you can get there.”
In her limited free time, Wendland does a lot of volunteering through the youth group at her church and the Service Club at Falmouth High. She also regularly goes on mission trips with ADios Ministries in Portland.
For the past three years Wendland has spent 10 days each spring at the children’s refuge center in Ometepe, Nicaragua. While there the mission team helps out with capital projects, like installing an irrigation system for the enterprise farm on the property or laying concrete, Wendland said.
She said the teams spend about six hours a day working, but the rest of the time they’re able to interact with the children, their caregivers and the local community.
“I love the people there,” Wendland said. “They’ve changed my life so much. And, I’ve really gotten to see how just one person can have a real impact. They live so differently and are so appreciative of all the little things.”
Working at the center, “I’ve learned to become grounded” and to let the little irritations of life go, she said.
While Wendland loves soccer, her goal is not to make the national team or play in the Olympics. “Mostly I just want to make a difference in people’s lives,” she said. “I want to return the favors I’ve received. What I really want is just find a way to pay it forward.”
As an example, for her senior project Wendland held a school supply drive for the children she works with in Nicaragua.
She partnered with the Falmouth Elementary School on the effort and was able to ship 100 pounds of school supplies this past fall, including the “whiteboard markers they’d been praying for.”
Wendland has to report to Quinnipiac on July 30 to begin soccer practice, but said she hopes to spend a good part of the coming months “enjoying the beautiful Maine summer,” including swimming in the ocean and going out to dinner or movies with friends.
“I’m ready for the next chapter,” she said. “I’m a little nervous, but overall I’m very excited, too.”
Lauren Wendland of Falmouth was severly injured in a car accident at age 10. She’ll graduate from high school this weekend and expects to play Division 1 soccer at Quinnipiac University in Connecticut in the fall.