Serving up some “love”: PV junior uses tennis to help individuals living with autism

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Serving up some “love”: PV junior uses tennis to help individuals living with autism

The Moline chapter of ACEing Autism taking a break to pose for a picture.

The Moline chapter of ACEing Autism taking a break to pose for a picture.

Haley Humes

The Moline chapter of ACEing Autism taking a break to pose for a picture.

Haley Humes

Haley Humes

The Moline chapter of ACEing Autism taking a break to pose for a picture.

Sarah Danielson, Copy Editor

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Although April is Autism Awareness month, a student at Pleasant Valley High School is making a year-round commitment to help those living with Autism.

ACEing Autism is a national organization with one main mission: to provide connections for children living with autism through tennis. They strive to make a positive impact on individuals and communities alike.

This organization was founded in Boston, Massachusetts in 2008 by Richard Spurling and Dr. Shafali Jeste. It has since spread from Massachusetts to locations all across the United States.

One of these locations is in Moline, Illinois. However, the founder of this branch is not a pair from Massachusetts, but rather a local PVHS student: Haley Humes.

Junior Haley Humes holds many positions both inside and outside school walls: co-captain of Sparkles Cheerleading, caregiver at Hand-in-Hand, member of the University of Iowa Children’s Hospital Advisory Committee, advocate at the Iowa Youth Congress, tutor at elementary schools, and member of the PVHS band.

Although she has many things to keep up with, each of them provides her with a fulfilling experience. In addition to all the previous positions, she is the program director and founder of ACEing Autism–this experience has been no different in its positive effect.

The summer before her freshman year, Humes established this chapter with the help of her parents and the local tennis club.

Her childhood experiences gave her a passion and deeper empathy for those living with disabilities. “I started it because I grew up deaf in my left ear and have always wanted to help other kids with disabilities,” Humes said.

Haley Humes
ACEing Autism volunteer Madeline Keane (right) bonds with a student over tennis, having fun and making a difference all at the same time.

Her involvement in ACEing Autism is large. She explained more of her responsibilities with this organization, detailing how each activity provides a positive effect for the kids. “I organize weekly one-hour lessons to teach kids with autism how to play tennis while simultaneously improving eye contact, social skills, and cooperative play,” she said.

Another PV student, Junior Maddy Licea, is also involved in the organization. She explained her reasons for becoming involved. “Humes and I have done a lot together over the years in regards to tennis and have worked closely with Sparkles. So, when she first started [ACEing Autism], it was a perfect match of interests for me.”

To Licea, Humes’ passion and drive are inspirational, especially regarding Humes’ desire to impact the community. “Humes has been a great example [of helping out around the community] because she spent a lot of high school giving back and has dedicated a lot of time to it regardless of other things going on.”

Humes and Licea are both active in and devoted to the well-being of their community. Humes stated her views. “I think it’s so important to give back to the community. There are so many people in this world that are facing significant challenges. It’s important to find your passion and help make a difference.”

Both of these girls have gained lifelong lessons through their involvement in ACEing Autism, lessons that will impact them later in life. Licea stated some of these lessons. “It has really helped me with my patience. [Being involved] has also really shown me how hard the kids work, regardless of ability,” she said.

Humes echoed these sentiments. “I was able to see the entire range of the autistic spectrum. Every child is so different, and I’ve learned how to be patient. I feel so close to every kid and family that has participated in ACEing Autism. Hearing their stories and seeing just a few of their challenges and successes has been truly inspiring,” she said.

Through the founding of ACEing Autism’s local chapter, Humes has made a difference, both in her life and in the lives of countless individuals across the Quad Cities.