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Greeley Students Launch Special Needs Program in Chappaqua

CHAPPAQUA, N.Y. - Hoping to see more youth volunteers in local special needs programs, two Horace Greeley High School freshman have created a school organization to encourage student involvement.

Dana Weinberg and Margot Putnam were inspired to create the club after volunteering in the Chappaqua American Youth Soccer Organization's (AYSO) Very Important Players (VIP) program last year.

"We really like the program of VIP soccer and we wanted to expand it more and see what else we could do," said Weinberg. "We thought that having a club at Greeley would be a good way to get more students involved."

The VIP program provides soccer experiences for children whose physical or mental disabilities make it difficult to successfully participate on mainstream teams.

“We started working with high functioning kids, then we went down to work with a kid who was lower-functioning and we really connected with him," said Putnam. "He hadn’t really recognized people before, and he was starting to recognize us."

Weinberg and Putnam will help recruit high school students to participate in similar special needs programs in the area, including a new VIP program for basketball. Volunteers would act as buddies and shadow the children.

Only in its second year, VIP coordinator Josh Lurie said the soccer program featured a two-to-one ratio of buddies to players and, with Weinberg and Putnam's help, is hoping to build on that success.

"They were interested starting a Horace Greeley club where it would act as a resource for other Horace Greeley students to come and volunteer for other programs in the area the were focused on special needs," said Lurie. "It's amazing."

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