BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — "He has completely turned around his vision of not wanting to be at camp," said Natasha Allen said.
Allen no longer has to worry about sending her 12 year old son Kamari, who has autism, to day camp.
"He is a very quiet child. He is very reserved. He is extremely to himself," said Allen.
But playing sports changed that.
I was unaware that he enjoys all the sports that he enjoys. He enjoys football. He plays tennis. He is just playing with the kids and he enjoys a variety of sports," said Allen.
"These youth find a sense of belonging when they join a sports team or a sports organization," said Nekia Kemp, the Executive Director of the Buffalo Police Athletic League.
That's one of the reasons the Buffalo Police Athletic League is telling kids to try playing, at a time when participation in youth sports is declining nationwide. According to the Aspen Institute, participation has dropped 7% in the past decade.
"It has opened him up to new things. It's allowed him to see other people for who they are and actually allowed them to see him for who he is," said Allen.
"The kids interact with him very well. I don't even think they realize he has a disability," said Ronnie Morrison, Kamari's camp supervisor.
Sports have really made Kamari come out of his shell, which is something Kamari's mom hopes other kids experience too.
"I would encourage people to have their kids get involved in something. It also gives them a sense of self worth. He has to feel much better being here, being a part of something, than he does sitting enclosed in his bedroom," Allen said.
One of Kamari's triggers was loud noises. But now he sits in a room with loud music, playing musical chairs almost every day.
"I love to see him grow. I love to see him expand his horizons. It gives me hope for his future," said Allen.