High school athletes in Washington are mentoring kids with disabilities through sport. The students are members of “Athletes for Kids,” a nonprofit that pairs high school athletes with kids who face disabilities.

Athletes for Kids, founded in 2002, serves children from 1st to 9th grade with special needs. The organization works with coaches, teachers, and community members to match each child to a qualified high school athlete. Selected athletes commit to mentoring a child for one to three years.

Last weekend, 50 athletes and their mentees met with the Skyline High School football team for a special practice to inspire the kids.

One of the kids, eight-year-old Jack, struggles with confidence and usually shies away from big group events, but his mentor, Ben was there to support him.

“Ben’s there to help him guide it through and helps Jack realize that it’s going to be alright,” said Keri Crossley, Jack’s mother.

The friendships fostered by Athletes for Kids have been a transformative force for the mentors, mentees, and parents.

“As a parent it touches my heart like nothing else because I see my kid as perfect just the way he is,” said parent Rebecca Partridge.

Jowelle M. is a college student interested in sociology, political science, and Spanish. Aside from academics, Jowelle enjoys blogging, reading, music, and spending time with family. She is happiest when she is working with others to improve the community.