[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/06/01/art.certner.jpg
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 CNN.com Live interview