NYer Of The Week: Laurie Lawrence Helps Special Needs Kids Through Sports
This week's New Yorker of the Week helps special needs children build confidence through sports. NY1's John Schiumo filed the following report.
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On one Greenwich Village basketball court, success comes in many forms. Thanks, in part, to coach Laurie Lawrence.
"You see an athlete that maybe didn't even know how to bounce the ball, and you got them to bounce the ball," Lawrence says. "And they are so happy, it's the most incredible feeling. It's just pure happiness."
Her journey began 23 years ago.
"I walked in, and I kid you not – one of our athletes ran across the gym and gave me a big bear hug," she recalls. "And I just went, I guess I'll be staying here for a while."
More than two decades later, Coach Laurie has changed the lives of hundreds of athletes involved with New York's Special Olympics.
"We have had several athletes come in and they won't look at you, they won't talk, they're afraid of their own shadow," she says. "By the end of whatever program it is, they're coming up and giving you hugs."
It's pretty impressive for someone who admits that sports haven't always been her forte.
"I was that kid who was always the last person chosen on the team. The athletes make fun of me," Lawrence says. "Richie turns to me and says, 'Laurie you come to basketball and you can't throw a basketball, you come to track and field and you don't know how to catch a ball, now you come to bowling and you don't know how to score.' But what I can do is make them know that they can."
Lawrence says she's spurred on by the ignorance she saw and the anger she felt as a child.
"I knew what it was like to be made fun of," she says. "Whether you are special needs or not, I don't tolerate that at all. It makes me sick."
Today, her care and encouragement is felt by all.
"I like basketball, I love baseball, and I love bowling," says athlete Stephen Maiman. "They really helped me out with those sports, and it really helped me a lot."
"She's a very clever person," says athlete Anthony Hassan, "and she's a very thoughtful person, and admirable too."
"I've just been very lucky and very fortunate to be a part of this," Lawrence says.
And so for helping New Yorkers with special needs build their confidence, Laurie Lawrence is our New Yorker of the Week.
For more information on New York's Special Olympics, visit www.nyso.org.