Matt Certner

[cnn-photo-caption image=

caption=”Matt Certner, 18, founded the Sports Clinic for Children with Special Needs.”]
Mikey and Matt were best friends. They vacationed together, they played sports together. But when Mikey was diagnosed with autism, the dynamics changed. “Particularly when he would try to play sports. Either the coaches would be too competitive to let him really participate or the kids would be callus,” Matt Certner says of the impetus for him starting Sports Clinic for Children with Special Needs.

Matt wanted to let kids like Mikey have a chance at an even playing field if they wanted to play sports. Matt started with one clinic in his hometown in New Jersey with volunteers from his high school, but in 2 1/2 years, the non-profit group has expanded to six in the state, helping approximately 100 special needs kids and their families. The kids play soccer in the fall, basketball in the winter and baseball in the spring. Like any other sports clinic, the kids get uniforms and trophies.

Matt, now 18, is going to Duke in the Fall, but plans to continue his work. “People say to me all the time, ‘Matt you got into college already, why are you still doing the clinic?’ I don’t do it for resume status. Ever since I was young I wanted to give back. I love it. I love the kids.”

Update: Watch the Live interview

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20 Responses to Matt Certner

  1. Jiten says:

    It is good to know on Mat work. We have been doing same in Sacramento/Davis area through our Expedien Foundation and plan to expand it to other states. Our services are at no charge to families of kids or adults with special needs.

  2. Edward says:

    Good for this guy. Society today needs many more people like Matt. He is not thinking of himself and trying to better the world for everyone with or without special needs. My fiance works with kids with special needs and it is a challenge so I have the utmost respect for anyone that works with these kids.

  3. Jeremy says:

    This is so inspiring that young people are doing such great things. It gives so much hope for the future.

  4. PattiS says:

    This is wonderful. My son was diagnosed with Aspergers syndrome last December and it’s becoming more difficult for him to be on a regular team even though he is considered mild. Do you have any clinics in the Springfield, IL area?
    God Bless you

  5. Lata says:

    BeingStaying in NJ and being blessed with an autistic boy, would love to know the locations where he can have more fun. Please let m eknow your locations.

  6. Hadassah says:

    Thats Amazing! Matt- do you ever get teased because of why you’re helping these kids? Just keep doing what you’re doing! i know several special needs kids, and they are so sweet!

  7. Jan says:

    It is nice to see that there are young people out there who are not full of themselves and who are truly concerned about doing for others. It is quite inspiring. I am not sure what Matt is getting his degree in, but I would suggest Therapeutic Recreation as a possible field. It would allow him to be able to do things like this for a living and have the training to make it better than it is.

  8. Stephanie says:

    What a great program! Able-bodied/minded people often don’t realize how exclusive typical sports activities can be. I hope this program opens up all over the nation, and I hope that typical kids will have the chance to see its participants as fellow athletes.

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  10. Peyton says:

    I think it is very good that people are making a difference in comunities!!

  11. Peyton says:

    I think it is very good that people are making a difference in comunities!!

  12. Kendall says:

    My brother have autism to he doesnt have it bad though it seems like it disappeared that you cant notice it that much. My friend {neighbor} also has been diagnosed with it and she is a very nice kid and again she doesnt have it bad but you can still tell theres something wrong. Keep it up Matt!!!!!!

  13. Banana says:

    that is sooooooooooooooooo awsome!! i think you should keep on working with disabled kids!!

  14. savannah says:

    i think this is SOOOO cool that you do this!!!

  15. ZeldaSuperstar says:

    That is AWESOME. Wow. I have a cuz’ that has autism… that would have been great for him…. Wow.

  16. lucky ducky says:

    That is SO cool how you include kids with autism, every kid deserves to have fun keep up the GREAT work 🙂


  17. Leah says:


    You gave up collage for these kids? You are truly a great person. You are a great influance on others. They should look up to you.

  18. Luckydardar says:

    I like how you include all kids, everyody deserves fun!

  19. Taco Taylor says:


    I think that is so cool. I am sure that the kids love what your doing. I know if I had a sickness like that I would be happy to have someone like you to spend time doing things I love!

    Taco Taylor

  20. PEYTON says:



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