Laura Wysocki

Daily Point of Light # 3956 Apr 2, 2009

Laura Wysocki broke her elbow playing soccer and while at the doctors, noticed an ad in the paper for volunteers. The program assigns Special Needs students with a "buddy" for one-on-one instruction in the rules of the game of soccer and the spirit of teamwork.

Being a buddy to little Gordon is an eye opener for Laura. Born with Down Syndrome and a weak heart, Gordon has undergone two heart surgeries. Gordon does not know anything about soccer, is reluctant to play and is notorious for running off the field every opportunity he can.

Gordon opened up to the skills Laura has been teaching him and he gave soccer a try. Gordon's kicks are haphazard and each time another player intercepts the ball, he gets frustrated. However, Gordon came out of his shell.

Laura's next challenge was to show Gordon teamwork. After weeks of insistent practice, interspersed with hugs and laughter, Gordon becomes a team player. He smiles, laughs, bows and gives high fives to his teammates as the audience, including his mom, praises his accomplishments. It was hard for many to believe the change they saw in Gordon; that shows just how much difference volunteering makes.

While recovering from her soccer injury, Laura learned a lot from Gordon. She developed a new perspective that made her more empathetic to disabled youth. She had a greater understanding of how they feel and the challenges they face to play sports. Her broken arm was temporary; however, their physical disabilities were permanent.

Laura's initial experience with Gordon and the progress he made inspired her to continue to serve. Now three years later, she is still volunteering. Laura has also encouraged friends to volunteer.

As the children learn new skills and the parents enjoy a respite on the sidelines, Laura feels a personal satisfaction. She and her friends have developed a bond with the children which continue after they leave the soccer field. As a volunteer, she learns about children with disabilities and shares the bond of friendships she has developed with others at her school.