Meet Mack Raymer

Meet Mack Raymer, a 14-year-old athlete from our Winston-Salem program in North Carolina. “I just ran into ACEing Autism, and I thought it was great, so I signed him up right away and when I told him, he was like ‘great! What is tennis?’” his mother, Casey, laughed.

“That is telling of Mack’s personality, that’s who he is at his core, endless enthusiasm for everything… even if he doesn’t yet completely understand it.”

For Casey, tennis has been good for Mack for several reasons. “For a kid who has ADHD for example, tennis doesn’t really have downtime, and he knows what’s coming,” she explained. “Once he figured out how it worked, he knew what to expect, and what was expected of him, it worked. The other thing that’s been nice about tennis is how fast he picked it up. He was able to rally and got to a point where he could get five or six volleys with whomever he was playing,” she proudly said.

She continued by explaining that when they tried baseball, “it was tough because there is a lot of waiting, so it’s hard for him. You have to wait to go to bat, you’re waiting in the outfield, so for him it was hard to stay engaged. When he does team sports, he has a hard time keeping track of things, where people are at, so he gets easily distracted.”

As we continued to talk, she described how Mack deals with many health challenges, which means that not all sports are a good fit. After she went over it in her head, she started naming his health issues. “He has a gastronomy tube (G-Tube), though which he receives his nutrition, an artificial heart valve, he had two open heart surgeries in 2020, and a compromised immune system that makes him vulnerable to illness, especially in indoor sports settings,” she said with a tremble in her voice.

Through all this, she had found that tennis was perfect for him because he can go at his own pace. “He can get tired easily, so the fact that he can go at his own speed and that the volunteers can follow his lead is key,” she gratefully shared. “Seeing him do that even through all his challenges is amazing!”

As Casey then mentioned that Mack has challenges with his motor skills, finding early success has made a big difference. “Tennis is something where he found some early success, so it got him excited,” she laughed. She also got excited when he started enjoying tennis because she has always been hoping for Mack to find a sport like the rest of the family.

“My husband and I both grew up playing sports and his brothers are also pursuing athletic interests. Having an opportunity like this allows him to be like everybody else.” On top of giving Mack something of his own that he can share with his family, Casey loves that it’s a lifelong sport. “It’s something you can do your whole life, it’s not something that just goes away, so if he continues to enjoy it, he can continue to play it,” the mother of three happily said.

As we wrapped up our conversation, Casey remembered how much he’s grown through just six weeks and how proud she felt to see her son enjoy and succeed. “He had never picked up a racquet, but by the time we finished, he was able to stand across the net and hit volleys back and forth,” the always optimistic mom shared. “My husband and I would watch it and be like, ‘he is pretty good at this’, even in those six weeks. He was able to understand how to hold the racquet, how to hold his body, and get the ball across the net,” she said excitedly.

Congratulations to Mack and his family! We can’t wait to see you back on court.

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