My name is Nathan Foo from West Melbourne, Florida. This site represents my dreams and aspirations to better the lives of children with Autism, allowing them to lead a complete and fulfilling life similar to typical children.
My first encounter with Autism was in 7th Grade when I volunteered with The Parker Foundation for Autism and Child Development. My initiation into the world of volunteering started when I signed up as a tennis buddy during their Annual Adaptive Tennis Clinic at the Kiwi Tennis Club where I trained. As a tennis buddy, I saw how children with autism lived in a world totally unlike typical children. I saw children with ASD struggle to perform simple tasks that we take for granted such as swinging a racket or following the bounce of a tennis ball. Even though I saw them struggling to focus on simple tennis skills, I could see how they persevered through their physical and mental challenges. For example, I was amazed when they would try over and over again until finally succeeding to return a tennis ball. It truly opened up my eyes and touched my heart to see what these children could accomplish if given the opportunity. I continued volunteering for this Annual Adaptive Tennis Clinic in my 8th Grade and due to my enthusiastic support was appointed as a Youth Ambassador for the foundation.
The following year, I eagerly looked forward to continuing my involvement with this worthwhile cause. However, sadly this was not meant to be as the event had to be cancelled due to the lack of sponsorship. Not willing to let this setback stop me from coaching and working with the ASD children whom I bonded with previously, I decided that it was time for me to step up and play a bigger role for my cause. Play Day at the Adaptive Tennis Clinic was amazing, but I realized that the ASD kids needed something more ongoing. Thus I brainstormed and brought to fruition my very first Adaptive Summer Tennis Camp for children with autism! It took a tremendous amount of effort; where I had to coordinate with various entities including tennis facilities and local community leaders, advocate for local business support to form partnership for sponsorship, recruiting my peers and Voice of Autism club members as support volunteers and coaches, and scheduling with the children and parents, while at the same time run a fundraiser to provide financial support for the event. Thankfully, with a lot of hard work and tremendous support from my volunteers, my camp was a rousing success! This was the start of a great tradition where I have and will continue organizing and improving my adaptive tennis camp annually every summer.
My goal is to package a complete turnkey tennis program for ASD children that I can introduce to other counties and eventually nationwide. Since children with autism often have difficulty understanding and following verbal instructions, but respond almost perfectly when given the chance to visualize instructions, I designed a curriculum largely based on visual supports with animated characters which the students create themselves. I envision these programs would be safe havens for ASD children, in a sanctuary where they are free from bullying because of their differences, and they can progress at their own pace and comfort level.
During my time at The Parker Foundation, I came to enjoy and cherish every hour I spent volunteering at their events, eventually also leading me to founding the “Voice of Autism” organization at my school in order to provide myself and others with the opportunity to support and carry out the mission of the foundation, which is to use education, sports, and the arts as avenues to enrich the lives of and bridge the gap between children with ASD, their families, and the world in which we live. In fact, I have also helped direct two consecutive years of musical concerts with youth guest performers, dedicated to ASD children. These concerts raised over $5500 which included over $3500 in cash donations that went to The Parker Foundation to continue their activities for children with autism, as well as sponsorship of $2000 in concert facilities and sound equipment.
My ultimate wish is to help open up the doors to social opportunities for families with ASD children, without them having to struggle to find the finances or the loving places that will understand their needs.
Please join me in my journey to help support these goals and make the world a more inclusive place for all children, including children with autism or children with other learning disorders!