This week is #nationalvolunteerweek and we couldn’t pass the opportunity to highlight a few of them. ACEing Autism wouldn’t be able to do what it does without its volunteers and we want to take any opportunity to thank you.
Meet Aurelia Baier, Nick Bloch, and Phillip Papadopulos, a trio of friends at our Washington, DC program. “What I love is getting to know the kids, you form a bond and you get attached to the child you work with,” Aurelia said as to why she keeps coming back. “It’s humbling but also very sweet.”
All three of them have been with the Washington, DC program since its beginning, three sessions ago. “I coach tennis and at first I wasn’t sure if it was going to be the same, but it’s a lot more fun,” Philip said laughing. “Now I understand the participants better and it becomes easier for me to teach them new skills.”
For Nick, whose mother Rachel started this program, ACEing Autism is close to his heart. “I have a brother on the autism spectrum and I’ve played tennis all my life so this is a perfect program for me to volunteer at.”
On top of the joy each of the volunteers feels watching the participants come out of their shell, they have also found it extremely educational and rewarding. “Between my older and younger class, there is a big difference in how verbal they are, so you have to learn to adapt how you teach,” Aurelia explained. Nick quickly added that ACEing Autism also teaches you “how to be useful in other ways: there is always something to do, and you have to learn how to do it, it teaches you flexibility,” as he laughed. “The exposure to how wide the spectrum has been so eye opening as well,” Aurelia continued.
But the bond that they form with the volunteers and the participants goes even deeper as they each explain. “I love that they come back,” Phillip said. “I would hate to not come back and leave them because they all look forward to it and so do we,” as they all nodded their heads in agreement while smiling ear to ear. Aurelia then goes to say that “the kids make you come back and when you have volunteers that are as dedicated as you are, it’s an awesome community to come back to.”
As we wrap up our discussion, Phillip finishes by saying that on top of doing it for the kids, “we’re doing it together, we take turns carpooling and sometimes we hang out afterward,” as they all laugh. “I don’t know if we would hang out normally just the three of us but it gives us another reason to bond over something.”
Thank you to these three friends for all that they’ve done and continue to do for our families. Happy National Volunteer Week to all of our volunteers who dedicate their time and make their program as successful as they are.