Youth volunteers like eighth grader Ben Mayer are the backbone of the Backyard Sports Cares PLUS special needs program. As a peer mentor, he spends an hour with us each Sunday at SUNY Purchase, playing sports with youth who have cognitive and behavioral challenges, helping them enjoy activities like basketball, soccer, baseball and tennis safely.
According to Ben, volunteering with us is not only fun, but very rewarding, because he’s seen the positive effect on the young men in the program. His favorite part? “Seeing the smiles on their faces. Seeing that they’re happy, engaged, and maybe able to complete something they couldn’t do last week.”
Ben told us he also feels a sense of responsibility to his mentee, which we admire. “I think he enjoys sports now. He’s excited to be there. Once you have a partner who looks up to you and expects you to be there, you don’t want to quit, because they’ll have to start over with someone else.”
Would Ben encourage others to consider volunteering with Backyard Sports Cares? Yes! “It’s a really good opportunity to help people. They may have problems in their life, or not have access to the same things you do. But you can help. You can make a change.”
We’ll hold on to Ben as long as we can, but once he does move on, he believes he’ll always look for opportunities to help people with special needs, as he’s now confident he has something to offer and proud of his ability to make a connection. We call that a win!