Patriots participate in Athletes for Kids

Reegan Weber, Staff Writer

A young girl, Polly, came to America from Thailand. She spoke little to no English, and on top of her inability to communicate clearly, she had to learn to cope with autism. This eleven year-old joined the Athletes for Kids program and was paired with Liberty senior Megan Kirschner who has become her mentor and friend.
Athletes for Kids is a nonprofit organization that pairs children with special needs with athletic high school students to provide a support system and a friend they can always turn to.
Ultimately, Athletes for Kids’ mission is to improve the lives of not only the special needs children, but also the lives of the high school mentors. They work towards this goal through modeling acceptance and promoting inclusion.
“You become good friends, teach them, model for them, and support them in all that they do,” Kirschner said.
Kirschner and her buddy Polly have spent one to two hours a week together for the last three years. Their activities include anything from a movie night, to a sporting event, or simply a fro-yo date.
“It’s nice to help somebody through the struggles of life because we all struggle with something,” Kirschner said. “Knowing that you can give back and there’s always somebody who’s hurting more than you makes me very thankful for the family I’ve been raised in and the life that I have.”
Senior Mikey Walter also participates with the program. His buddy, Josh, has Down Syndrome.
“Josh is a really great kid. Not many people give him a chance, and I wanted to be a person who makes a positive impact on his life. I consider him a great friend and a kid who has and will continue to leave a major impact on my life,” Walter said.
Through Athletes for Kids and other activities, Kirschner has completed over 175 hours of community service during her junior year alone. Her goal is to serve for 100 hours every year.
“The pinnacle of leadership is what you can give back,” Kirschner said. “It’s fulfilling, humbling, and I feel like my greater purpose is to help others since I’ve been born into wsuch an amazing life.”
If you wish to join the twelve Patriots who volunteer with Athletes for Kids, visit their website to sign-up and get the chance to become a mentor.