YMS Special Stars 

A Volunteer Soccer Program for Children and Young Adults Who Have Been Diagnosed with Autism

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2016 Winners:

Daniel Rottenborn: ​

What Special Stars Means to Me

 What the YMS Special Stars program has meant to my life is difficult to put into words. Never has another activity worked to expand my horizons and open up a new dimension to the way I view the world in such a profound way. I have been volunteering for the Special Stars program for five years now, and through those years I have grown tremendously and learned many important lessons as a result of my efforts for the program. I have learned not to make prior judgements of people before I get to know them. I have learned that a little patience and a lot of love can change the course of a child’s life. I have learned that sometimes, as a volunteer, your impact on the cause for which you are volunteering can pale in comparison to the impact that that experience has on you. But probably most life-changing of all, I have learned what beauty there is in true purity, through the actions of the Special Stars and Pals alike. Even when things get a little rambunctious, like when a Star decides to do his or her best to tackle you to the ground for no apparent reason, or maybe when someone decides he or she really has to use the bathroom and just can’t make the walk, I have come to admire the honesty that comes with every action on any given gameday. For the Stars, Special Stars is a place where they can come and just be free for an hour or so on a Sunday afternoon, and as a result I have found that their actions tend to be as free as they are. Special Stars is one of the few places I’ve come into contact with where these children living with autism are able to come together and join a free community of friends like them. Their actions in this tight-knit community are wholly their own, and it is this freedom to act the way they feel that warms my heart and shows me the beauty in the purity of a child just having fun. Additionally, the actions of the Special Pals are incredible. To place a kid in charge of a human being of similar age to them who needs their guidance can be a transformatory experience for many. Both the responsibility of the Pal for the Star and the relationship that forms between them represent something almost tangible; a feeling of pure care and love hard to replicate anywhere else. These are the things that have kept me coming back over the years, and assure that I will not stop doing so. These children have changed my life, simple as that. Through the purity of their actions, as well as the beauty I have come to see in the efforts made and relationships formed through this program, I can honestly say that Special Stars has impacted my life in a way nothing else has. My experiences and lessons learned will be with me for life, and I know that will never change. The Special Stars program has meant everything to me over the past few years, and has changed my life forever.