Bar Mitzvah Bouncer
Mitzvah Project: Athletes Helping Athletes

Benjamin (“Benjy”) Schneider has been hard at work on his Mitzvah Project with the help of his sister Madison. When the family moved to Pelham, New York about ten years ago, Madison made her first friend, Daniel. Daniel was later diagnosed as being on the Autism Spectrum. They remained friends and share a very special bond.

Last year, Benjy and Madison learned that Daniel does not play in the same sports league with his Pelham friends so he doesn’t have shirts that boast the name of their town. This amazing brother-sister team came up with the idea of Athletes Helping Athletes (AHA). This is a Pelham Rec event in which children of ALL abilities come together to play, find commonalities, and celebrate differences.

All pictures courtesy of Deborah Karson. Featured left: Benjy, Madison and Daniel

We asked Benjy and Madison a few questions about the Mitzvah Project:

MM: Why did you decide to take on this particular project?
B&M:
At 18 months, our friend Daniel was diagnosed as being on the Autism Spectrum. While our paths have crossed through the Pelham School system, we have had very different experiences. We wanted to help Daniel and his friends with their sports leagues so they could have a similar experience to us.

MM: Give us details on what you decided to do to help.
B&M:
Last June, we organized soccer teams comprised of kids of ALL abilities. The goal was to have ALL children play together. Training consisted of 15-20 minutes of basic practice, given by high school or middle school students and a 30 minute scrimmage. Our middle school/high school trainers refereed, or helped kids who needed additional guidance on the field. If there were children interested in helping out in other capacities (i.e. volunteering at the check in desk, t-shirt distribution, keeping score/referee, etc.,), we were happy to accommodate. The first event was held on June 11, 2016 at Glover Turf Field and we had approximately 60 attendees.

MM: Tell us about your next event.
B&M: Because our event last June was scheduled during a baseball tournament, Benjy’s teammates, who had hoped to volunteer, could not be involved. Benjy’s amazing coach, Mike Leak, volunteered to help us with the next event. Last November, Pelham AHA held “BASEBALL UNDER THE LIGHTS.” Around 80 children took to the appropriately named Friendship Field to learn about America’s favorite pastime.

MM: Do you have another event coming up?
B&M: Our friend Daniel is an avid hockey player so our next event was to be held on the ice to celebrate his prowess! Unfortunately, after much investigation, we learned that the local rinks did not have adaptive equipment for skaters with disabilities and we switched our next event to basketball, which took place on May 12, 2017.  Through this event, we hoped to raise enough funds to purchase an adaptive sled and two walkers so that children with disabilities in our area have the option to ice skate. A sled would enable a more severely disabled child to skate with a parent/friend, who could push from behind.

MM: Anything else we need to know about your Mitzvah Project?
B&M:
We are excited to announce that Athletes Helping Athletes was granted money from the Pelham Civics Association to acquire the adaptive equipment they need so ALL children can ice skate together this fall. With the $1,500 grant, and a matching corporate donation, AHA is able to fund the sleds and walkers. We are working with a lawyer, who has volunteered his time pro bono, to help AHA become a 501(c)(3).

We are all very excited about this project as there are several children for whom this will make a huge difference. These kids have never been on the ice before and we believe every child should have this experience! The support of our town has been overwhelming. It is amazing to think that a little girl and Bar Mitzvah boy’s wish to level the playing field and play with a family friend could make such a difference.

We thank Benjy and Madison for sharing their Mitzvah Project with our readers.

 

 

 

 

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