Meet Tammy Simone and Katie Orlando, our Program Directors from Akron, OH. Tammy, the mother of a child on the spectrum (Stephen, 21 years old), heard about ACEing Autism from a friend “so I talked to Katie who was a member of my club about starting a program,” Tammy remembered.
As Tammy and Katie grew up together, Tammy volunteered during the first session back in Fall 2019. “Katie wanted to restart it after COVID and asked if I would do admin work which I accepted,” she said. “It was amazing to see the kids have fun with the sport that I love but I also love this role and understanding what they want out of the program.”
For Katie, it’s always been her goal to want everyone to be involved in tennis, Tammy told us. “She has a soft spot for people who don’t have the same opportunity,” Tammy explained. “ I was always looking for programs so my son could meet other kids and me to meet parents. With this program, I combine my love of tennis and autism, so I always say my two worlds collide,” as she laughs.
Before starting ACEing Autism, Katie ran a buddy up at her club, as she always looks to be as inclusive as she can. Tammy on her end volunteered a lot for schools but as her son is now in college, she had the time to help with ACEing Autism.
Tammy has loved “seeing the kids smiling, talking and seeing that they found their community,” she shared as she talks about what made her want to be even more involved. “It’s adapted but they get the same experience as anybody else. Families are getting the tennis clinic experience.”
When looking back on all the sessions, her biggest takeaway is that “it’s where my 2 worlds collide” she said as she chuckled. “I know I’m repeating myself but it’s true, “The one surprise I’ve seen is how well the juniors and adults meshed really well.”
Her last word to everyone is that “if you’re even thinking of doing it, do it. There is a ton of support, anything we need is there.”