Imagine being left out or pushed aside by your peers because of something that made you different. Something uncontrollable that you were born with. Sometimes you get left out because you don't fit in with others around you, but is that fair if you can't control what makes you different?
Imagine that thing that makes you "different" is a disability. Something you have no control over or say about has so much impact on your life. Now, would you want to feel like you don't belong with people your age for being yourself?
You're With Us! was created first for Max, a young boy with Cerebral Palsy. When Max's father, Michael Plansky, saw his son feeling isolated and depressed, Michael wanted his son to have an opportunity to be around others that weren't available to him previously. Michael asked the coach of Northeastern University's Men's Basketball team if Max could go to practices and some games, making him a part of their team.
This experience gave Max lasting friendships, taught him about winning and losing, and brought the biggest smiles to his face. Max was the first; now this experience is felt by about one hundred young adults with disabilities on about twenty college campuses.
Gordon College has seven individuals with varying disabilities involved on their campus along with about thirteen Gordon student mentors spending time with them on a weekly basis. Gordon's baseball team, women's lacrosse, track and field, men's basketball, and women's basketball teams all have individuals as a part of their sports teams with more teams looking to get involved in the coming year.
Gordon Baseball player Derek Hudson loves his involvement with You're With Us! and Matt on the baseball team: "You're With Us! has provided me the ability to impact lives in ways that I never knew possible. Working as a mentor is such a great experience because it has shown me what a unique blessing each and every life is." Matt goes to campus and sees multiple Gordon students for lunch, workouts, sports games, and just to spend time with his friends, making Gordon a second home.
Gordon's basketball team has three YWU! individuals on their team. Dan, Zach, and Matt all have the men's basketball team as their second family. Coach Tod Murphy states: "we have been working with You're With Us! for the past 3 years, and it has been such a blessing to our program. The love and support that we have received and the friendships that we have developed with these young men has been invaluable to the growth and development of our team over the last three years. There is no doubt that our team has been greatly enriched both on and off the court by the addition of our You're With Us! teammates. We are so grateful to You're With Us! for being a part of our team, and allowing us to be a part of their team." The basketball team has made such strong connections with Dan, Zach, and Matt both on and off the court, which is something we hope all teams and individuals involved are able to experience.
Eric, a junior basketball player and You're With Us! campus case coordinator has made big strides with YWU! He feels that "it has been unbelievable to see how much You're With Us! has grown in 3 short years. I love my role with You're With Us! because I am able to coordinate and provide opportunities for both the participants of You're With Us! and also our sports teams at Gordon to come together and welcome new friends and teammates into our community. My goal is to grow You're With Us! at Gordon to the point where all of our sports teams are apart of the amazing things we have going on! I look forward to seeing the relationship between You're With Us! and Gordon College continue to grow for years to come!" Eric has helped make Gordon home to so many. As with other colleges, we are now growing to other areas of Gordon's campus, such as their tremendous arts program, to offer opportunities of social inclusion and mentoring.
In our four years, You're With Us! has created these lifelong experiences for individuals on college campuses across Massachusetts and in surrounding states. Our goal is to change the perception of disabled young people who believe they are excluded by helping them become part of their communities centered on the activities that they enjoy. In turn, their new peers in these communities, who may have thought of children with disabilities as different, now find them to be friends, teammates, and family. Our motto is: A sense of belonging for all!