Today, we’re heading to our brand new program in Redding, CA, to check in with Program Director Karina Chang. “It was incredible to see the participants improve so quickly in such a short amount of time,” the rising high school senior said.
Karina, along with her co-Program Directors, her father Tony Chang, and Rebecca Berg, recruited seven participants and 20 volunteers to launch the new program. All three of the Program Directors contributed to a very successful launch where they saw a lot of smiles and friendships form. “Most of our participants attended school together so a lot of them were already friends, but it was amazing to see them reach out to the teenage volunteers and make new friends,” the three-sport varsity athlete mentioned. “By the last few sessions, they were able to share contacts, prom pictures, and we even got to see some emotional hugs and hand holdings at our last clinic!”
Even though she was nervous at the beginning, Karina had a lot of help, which made her experience easier. “Being able to discuss with my father and Mrs. Berg, was an invaluable tool. We were able to talk about ways we could improve the next sessions and areas we were already succeeding in. Having them as partners made the whole process much easier,” the member of her city’s Teenage Advisory Board recalled.
The former nationally ranked junior tennis player then talked about how she “thoroughly enjoyed seeing the difference ACEing Autism was able to make on the lives of our community.” She continued by saying that “a large amount of our volunteers had never had any experience with children with special needs, so seeing them grow as individuals was a great experience! Being able to create a safe, fun, and social environment for the participants was also an experience I will never forget.”
Lastly, she happily shared that “we were able to get to know the participants very well and two of our nonverbal participants felt comfortable enough that they eventually made sounds when laughing or to communicate. It was an emotional and completely unforgettable experience!”
Karina, Tony, and Rebecca haven’t set a date for the next session yet, but they are excited to start planning for it already! Stay tuned for more information.