Working with special needs children sparks education career for former BYSC volunteer

Posted on

Inspiring stories of growth, compassion, and success
from Backyard Sports Cares volunteer alumni

Sydney Farrell BYSC peer mentor volunteer

 

“I knew for a while after working with kids that I wanted to go into education, in general. After taking a special education class, the information and practices we learned felt like an extension of everything I had been doing with Backyard Sports. It was something I was already well versed in and felt passionate about.” 

BYSC volunteer alum, Sydney Farrell, was a Backyard Sports Cares peer mentor with our PLUS program for special needs athletes from 2012 to 2015. After graduating from Mamaroneck High School, Sydney continued her education at the University of Vermont, where she studied early childhood and special education. With a younger brother on the autism spectrum, Sydney came to us with an ingrained sensitivity and understanding of kids with special needs. This is her story.

LISTEN to our podcast interview with Sydney Farrell

BYSC: Tell us how you got connected with Backyard Sports Cares?

Sydney Farrell: My brother, who is now 19, was one of the first participants in Backyard Sports Cares program for special needs kids. Danny Bernstein is a close friend of my parents, and when the PLUS program was just getting started, my brother was one of the early participants. So, I would go and watch him sometimes and observe the set up and activities. When I was a freshman in high school, I started volunteering with the program at SUNY Purchase and it was great.

BYSC: Were you working with your brother, too?

Sydney Farrell: Yes, that was definitely part of it. They wanted to mix it up a little bit, so they would usually put other people with my brother and me with different kids, but it was cool to be able to be in the same place and do the same things.

BYSC: What did you encounter that you didn’t expect?

Sydney Farrell: The commitment that was expected was a bit of a surprise. The coaches really wanted to make sure that you were going to be a committed volunteer once you started, and it wasn’t just like, “Yeah, I’ll show up when I can.” It was like, “You have to come every week and you work with the same kids and you build relationships with these kids and they depend on you week after week to come.” I don’t know, I guess I just didn’t really think about that before, but once we started doing it, I could see why that was so important. And you could see these kids were coming back, expecting the same people every weekend. It was a really nice growth opportunity for everyone.

BYSC: You were building a relationship with your mentee.

Sydney Ferrell: Yeah, exactly, and help it to grow. There were definitely some challenges that came along with stuff like that, like having to put in the time and commitment every week, but it was well worth it when you would see some of the results.

BYSC: So you, Emily, and Paulina all attended Mamaroneck High School and volunteered at BYSC together. You all decided to take it to the next level by starting your own club to help out school kids in your district. Talk about that.

Sydney Farrell:  We loved going to the Purchase location every week and Mr. Minotti, our health teacher, and BYSC coach,  asked us what we thought about starting a program in the Mamaroneck community. And we were like, “That’s a great idea. There’s such a need for it and I think so many people would be into it.”

So, Mr. Minotti, Paulina, Emily, and I kind of formed the Mamaroneck Club together, and we started by holding interest meetings with people from the high school to see if this was something that could work. Are people interested in helping out, etc.?

It was fun because a lot of my friends from high school already knew about Backyard Sports. I would talk about it a lot, so they knew my interest and commitment to the program. I was creating an opportunity for people to really see more of what it was about. We got a lot of people who were interested, and once we were in communication with schools, parents, and Paulina’s mom, who was very involved in the Special Ed PTA, we were able to connect with those parents to see if their kids would be interested, and it started to take off. It was wonderful.

BYSC: So you’ve graduated from the University of Vermont. What did you study?

Sydney Farrell: I studied early childhood education and special education.

BYSC: Do you think your experience with Backyard Sports Cares and having a brother with special needs influenced your career choice?

Sydney Farrell: Yeah, definitely. I wrote my college essay about my experience with Backyard Sports. I knew for a while after working with kids that I wanted to go into education, in general. After taking a special education class, the information and practices we learned felt like an extension of everything I had been doing with Backyard Sports. It was something I was already well versed in and felt passionate about.

BYSC: That’s wonderful. So are you about to embark on your career?

Sydney Farrell: Yes. Over the summer, I worked at Camp Akeela in Wisconsin and Vermont. It’s a camp for kids who need a little bit more help making social connections and friendships, and a lot of the campers were on the autism spectrum. It was a wonderful program to be a part of, and it was definitely a continuation of a lot of what I’ve been doing, which is nice.

BYSC: We are so happy to hear your story and to know that you’re doing so well and that you’re continuing to help others, which is really powerful. We want to keep in touch with you, so let us know how things go, and we’d love to have you back once you get your teaching career going.

Sydney Farrell: Thank you so much. I really appreciate it and I love staying connected to Backyard Sports however I can. It was such a big, important part of my life and it still is.

Click here to listen to our other Alumni success stories.

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

Posted on
Categories volunteer teen mentors, special needs sportsTags ,

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. … Continue reading “Former BYSC volunteer, Emily Holzberg, finds her experience and compassion add value to career and client, Autism Speaks”

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

Posted on
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”

BYSC Peer Mentor Shares Her Experience Volunteering with Special Needs Athletes

Posted on
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”

Brothers find connection through BYSC Program for Special Needs Athletes

Posted on
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”

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

Posted on
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”

How Charles DeFrancesco’s Special Needs Son Inspired Him to Launch Fit 4 Fun

Posted on
Categories inclusive sports, special needs sportsTags , ,

Charles DeFrancesco Aims to Forge a Fitness Path for All Abilities Backyard Sports Cares caught up with Charles DeFrancesco, a certified personal trainer and owner of the Arena,  a personal training facility located in White Plains. Charles recently launched a new program called Fit 4 Fun to provide kids with special needs a place to go … Continue reading “How Charles DeFrancesco’s Special Needs Son Inspired Him to Launch Fit 4 Fun”

Dr. Christina tells why sports are important for all kids — And role modeling is key!

Posted on
Categories 3 on 3, special needs sports, At risk youth, under-served communities, fundraisingTags ,

PM Pediatrics has been a community partner to Backyard Sports Cares for a number of years. Their contribution to the welfare of children and adolescent health and wellness in Westchester is matched by their time, commitment and generosity in helping foster the sports activity programs we provide to at-risk and special needs kids. We talked … Continue reading “Dr. Christina tells why sports are important for all kids — And role modeling is key!”

Bridging cultural differences through sport: Visiting UK coaches introduce rugby and cricket to Westchester grade schoolers

Posted on
Categories afterschool programs, inclusive sports, special needs sportsTags

Backyard Sports Cares “guest counselors”, Rhodrey Dafydd and Tom Finnigan of the United Kingdom, recently spent the month of May participating in our afterschool and special needs programs.  They led early morning and recess rugby and cricket programs to elementary school students in White Plains and New Rochelle. They also assisted in a physical education … Continue reading “Bridging cultural differences through sport: Visiting UK coaches introduce rugby and cricket to Westchester grade schoolers”

Backyard Sports+ Special Needs Athletes Play GaGa at SUNY Purchase

Posted on
Categories inclusive sports, special needs sportsTags

This past weekend our Backyard Sports Plus Special Need athletes and coaches were treated to an indoor session of GaGa at Purchase College.  The GaGa pits were provided courtesy of Scott Blumberg and Talon Athletics, a local GaGa activity provider and manufacturer of GaGa specialty equipment. The players received progressive skill instruction, including striking a … Continue reading “Backyard Sports+ Special Needs Athletes Play GaGa at SUNY Purchase”

Backyard Sports Cares Brings Special Needs Sports Programming to New England

Posted on
Categories inclusive sports, special needs sports

  This fall, Backyard Sports Cares launched its first soccer program for kids with Special Needs in Weston, CT. In collaboration with the Weston, CT, Parks & Recreation Department, the program has gotten off to a great start with enthusiastic volunteers from Weston High School helping to teach young athletes soccer skills, while having lots … Continue reading “Backyard Sports Cares Brings Special Needs Sports Programming to New England”

Backyard Sports Plus Teen Basketball League Gets Going!

Posted on
Categories inclusive sports, special needs sports, basketballTags ,

Thanks to our teen coaches and players for a successful start to the Backyard Sports Plus Teen Basketball League.  Coach Vin Minotti led the group in clinical instruction followed by inclusive competitive basketball games for the squad.  We meet Sunday mornings at 10am at the main gym at Purchase College for all interested teen players and … Continue reading “Backyard Sports Plus Teen Basketball League Gets Going!”

BYS Named Family Favorite Again by Westchester Family Magazine

Posted on
Categories special needs sportsTags ,

For a second consecutive year, Westchester Family Magazine names Backyard Sports among the publication’s Top 5 Family Favorites for “Special Needs Recreation Programs.” As part of its annual Family Favorites Awards, Westchester Family Magazine surveys thousands of parents to find out who their (and their children’s) favorite service providers are across 47 categories. “We are … Continue reading “BYS Named Family Favorite Again by Westchester Family Magazine”