• Backyard Sports Cares Blog



  • Former BYSC volunteer, Emily Holzberg, finds her experience and compassion add value to career and client, Autism Speaks

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    As parents, we try to instill values, like compassion, leadership, respect, and charity in our children. Volunteerism has traditionally played a role in helping to teach kids that giving to others who are less fortunate is a way to build character, connect diverse communities, and increase awareness of the world outside of their zip code.

    But initially, many kids don’t often buy into the concept because, afterall, they’re just kids. How many 12 to 17-year-olds do you hear pleading with their parents to help them build character?  We want this because we see the bigger picture and understand the far-reaching effects that volunteering offers. In this series, we hope to inspire both parents and kids through conversations with Backyard Sports Cares volunteer alumni. Where are they now and how has working with BYSC and kids with limited access to sports affected their journey into adulthood?

    LISTEN to our podcast with Emily Holzberg

     

    Emily Holzberg was a Backyard Sports Cares volunteer during her time at Mamaroneck High School. She and two of her friends, Sydney Farrell and Paulina Paras, became inspired by the work they were doing with special needs kids and decided to start a Backyard Sports club at their high school. In doing so, the girls were able to recruit other students and offer their volunteer services to elementary school children in Mamaroneck. Emily is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin and currently works in advertising for BBDO in New York City where she lends special needs expertise to her client, Autism Speaks. This is her story.

    BYSC:  Tell us about your involvement with BYSC as a volunteer peer mentor?

    emily holzberg with special needs childEmily: I started working with Backyard Sports soon after I started Mamaroneck High School. Coach Vin, aka Mr. Vinotti, was a teacher at our school and he told us about the program. I got involved with a few girls in my grade, and we started volunteering at the Sunday sessions for special needs athletes at SUNY Purchase.

    I think the biggest part of my work with Backyard Sports was starting a club with two other girls, Paulina and Sydney. We created our own Friday sessions for kids with disabilities in our own district at a local elementary school. We were really able to create our own community and even our own sessions with our local peers and kids in school. When I left Mamaroneck High School, we had more than 200 volunteers in our Facebook group. It was a really awesome experience.

    BYSC:  Is the club still active now that you have gone?

    Emily: Yes, it’s still is going on. I know they volunteer a lot at the BYSC Plus program on Sundays. I think that’s the biggest effort they do now. They send a bunch of volunteers to the Sunday session knowing that has also grown a lot in terms of participants.

    BYSC: Do you think the experience and the leadership role that you took planted seeds that have impacted your decisions as a young adult?

    emily holzberg graduates
    Emily after her graduation ceremony from the University of Wisconsin

    Emily: I always say the biggest thing that BYSC taught me was when you’re really passionate about something, you can do anything with it and you can use that enthusiasm and drive and excitement to turn it into whatever you’d like to. For us, that was developing the club at school and really changing the culture and community at our school. The drive that the club instilled in me and the people we got to work with helped me channel that into my studies at school.

    I also took a number of college classes in rehabilitation, psychology, and education, which shaped my volunteer experiences there. I volunteered at a bunch of schools and a home for adults facing a range of disabilities. And now, even at my work at BBDO, I’m actually working on the Autism Speaks account, one of our pro bono clients. That work has stayed with me and has always been the favorite part of whatever I’m doing. So it’s been really cool to keep that tie and thread throughout my life.

    BYSC: So are you enjoying life as an adult now and living on your own? 

    Emily: Yes, yes. I’m enjoying it. I actually just picked up the keys to my new apartment in NYC this weekend, and I’m moving in on Friday.

     

    Two groups of deserving kids find fun, fresh air, and friends at BYSC’s 5th annual Adirondack camping experience at Brant Lake Camp

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    Categories At risk youth, under-served communities, summer campTags

    This past week, Backyard Sports Cares hosted two separate groups of deserving campers at Brant Lake Camp, a private summer camp in the Adirondacks. BYSC hosted thirty school-aged children from the New Flex Foundation of Mt. Vernon, and seven residents from the Youth Shelter Program of Westchester, a rehabilitation program offering teenagers a second chance … Continue reading “Two groups of deserving kids find fun, fresh air, and friends at BYSC’s 5th annual Adirondack camping experience at Brant Lake Camp”

    Learning to play basketball also teaches sharing and teamwork among teens with special needs

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    Categories volunteer teen mentors, special needs sports, basketballTags ,

    Consuelo Engel shares her and her son James’ experience as a participant in Backyard Sports Cares PLUS program for teen athletes with special abilities. For more than two years, 18-year-old James has been building his skills on the court while connecting with teammates and volunteer peer mentors. The teen program is an off-shoot of BYSC … Continue reading “Learning to play basketball also teaches sharing and teamwork among teens with special needs”

    Every Kid Deserves a Bike!

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    Categories under-served communitiesTags , , ,

    Backyard Sports Cares celebrates its 5th year of participation in Barnum Foundation for Life‘s annual Bike Day. Dozens of youngsters from the Youth Community Outreach Program (Y-COP) of Mt. Vernon were identified by BYSC to receive a brand new bicycle. For many, it was their first bike. The event took place on Sunday, June 23rd … Continue reading “Every Kid Deserves a Bike!”

    Passing the Baton: Backyard Sports 2019 Inaugural Red Shirt Ceremony

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    Categories Teen Mentors, Red Shirts, volunteer teen mentors

    Backyard Sports Cares started with just a few caring people and a vision in 2009 and has grown into what is now an integral part of our community. Serving over 200 children with cognitive challenges, Backyard Sports has been able to give those with limited access to sports programming a safe space to play sports, … Continue reading “Passing the Baton: Backyard Sports 2019 Inaugural Red Shirt Ceremony”

    BYSC executive director announces Next Generation Campaign to lead organization into the future

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    Categories Teen Mentors, afterschool programs, fundraisingTags , ,

      LISTEN to our podcast interview with Danny Bernstein, executive director, BYSC When Backyard Sports Cares launched in 2009, we knew we were doing something special. There was a void for many parents in the Westchester Community who were seeking either affordable sports programming for their typical child or programs that were accommodating to their … Continue reading “BYSC executive director announces Next Generation Campaign to lead organization into the future”

    Gannett Grant Fever Simmers as BYSC Earns Finalist Standing for $25K award

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    Categories afterschool programs, inclusive sports, Soccer, basketball, under-served communities

    Backyard Sports Cares (BYSC) has earned finalist status to potentially win Gannett Media’s A Community Thrives grant. To qualify as a grant finalist, BYSC had to raise $3,000 via a Crowdrise Campaign. The organization has exceeded that goal by raising more than $4,000 in three weeks — four days in advance of the campaign cutoff. … Continue reading “Gannett Grant Fever Simmers as BYSC Earns Finalist Standing for $25K award”

    Timeout: BYSC brings a social dimension to PLUS Program for special needs athletes

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    Categories Community Social for Special NeedsTags ,

    In February, Backyard Sports Cares kicked off a new mission to expand socialization opportunities for teens and young adults who take part in the organization’s Sunday PLUS program for special needs athletes.  “Backyard Sports Cares is hoping to create a positive social relationship that goes beyond the court and playing field for children who grew … Continue reading “Timeout: BYSC brings a social dimension to PLUS Program for special needs athletes”

    BYSC Peer Mentor Shares Her Experience Volunteering with Special Needs Athletes

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    Categories Teen Mentors, Red Shirts, volunteer teen mentors, special needs sportsTags , , ,

    Emily Lattman is a senior at Scarsdale High School. When she’s not studying and hanging out with friends, she’s giving back to the community by volunteering her time as a peer mentor for Backyard Sports Cares PLUS program for special needs children. We caught up with Emily after last Sunday’s sports program and she talked … Continue reading “BYSC Peer Mentor Shares Her Experience Volunteering with Special Needs Athletes”

    BYSC Timeout: Sports for visually impaired kids and teens

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    Categories Teen Mentors, visually impaired

    When people hear sports for special needs kids, many think of kids with cognitive or developmental disabilities, such as autism, Down syndrome or cerebral palsy. The notion of sports for a blind or visually impaired child seldom comes to mind. In fact, according to the American Foundation for the Blind, nearly 70 percent of visually impaired … Continue reading “BYSC Timeout: Sports for visually impaired kids and teens”

    Brothers find connection through BYSC Program for Special Needs Athletes

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    Categories Red Shirts, volunteer teen mentors, special needs sports, Soccer, basketball

    James Fitzpatrick, former BYSC teen mentor and “Red Shirt” alum, comes back to visit PLUS program athletes, including his brother Kyle. We chatted with James Fitzpatrick this past weekend when he came to pick up brother, Kyle, from our Sunday program for special needs athletes. Now a Geometry and Spanish teacher at Iona Prep, James … Continue reading “Brothers find connection through BYSC Program for Special Needs Athletes”

    NY Knicks Youth Engagement Manager Talks About Empowering Kids Through Sports

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    Categories basketballTags ,

    Our Give Thanks Series continues with Kiki Campbell, manager of Youth Engagement and Fan Development for the New York Knicks. Kiki helps run a program called Junior Knicks, the New York Knicks youth basketball department. We asked her to share her experience in this role, her relationship with Backyard Sports Cares, and about the impact that … Continue reading “NY Knicks Youth Engagement Manager Talks About Empowering Kids Through Sports”

    Special needs peer mentor shares why he’s been a BYSC teen volunteer for 3 years

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    Categories special needs sportsTags , , ,

    It’s funny how the universe — and moms — seem to surface just what we need before we know we need it. Backyard Sports Cares volunteer peer mentor, Alec Greenwald, talks to us about his surprising experience working with special needs children and teens participating in BYSC Plus Program. WATCH our interview with BYSC teen … Continue reading “Special needs peer mentor shares why he’s been a BYSC teen volunteer for 3 years”