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Oct, 2020

Albany Times Union - North Colonie Youth Baseball raising awareness of autism

As written by Sean Martin for the Times Union. For the full article and pictures please go to: https://www.timesunion.com/sports/article/North-Colonie-youth-baseball-raising-awareness-of-15617600.php#photo-20053789 

COLONIE — The mere act of putting on a uniform forms a near-automatic bond for teammates as they strive to achieve success on the field. But for the North Colonie 11U baseball team, it isn’t all about winning: For the past few years, the team has formed a bond that has impact far from the diamond. The players have dedicated their season to boost awareness of autism, complete with specially designed uniforms featuring the multicolored puzzle-piece logo for autism awareness, and donating a portion of its fundraising to support a local foundation geared toward the same cause.

The team has come together around Carter Durant, the older brother of team member Griffin Durant. Carter, 13, has a severe case of the spectrum disorder. Jill Durant, the boys' mother, said the young players' attention to Carter has made a positive difference. "These boys go over, they high-five him, they say hello to him every game,” she said. “Carter, at most baseball games, is sitting next to me pulling grass. He has a lot of sensory needs. ... (The team's members) sit by him, pull grass with him — they are good to him.” 
“I don’t know how much this does for Carter, but it does a lot for my other son,” Durant said. “I think it is amazing for him. We’ve been with this group for a while. It makes Griffin feel special that his friends go out of their way to help his brother.”

The team's donations have been sent to the Anthony Blaauboer Kindness Foundation, a charity formed after Anthony Blaauboer, who had autism, died in August 2018 — just a few days shy of his 15th birthday. Divers found his body in the Mohawk River.
Landon Blaauboer, a cousin to Anthony, is a member of the North Colonie 11U team.  “The Blaauboer family is very close; we do Christmas together, we do birthdays together,” said Kyrie Berkery, Landon's mother. “Just a few days prior to the accident, Anthony was at our house for Landon’s birthday party. The team views (its efforts) more for raising awareness for the Durant family and Carter, but Landon definitely has that connection personally.”  "Most of these kids have been playing together since they were 7 years old,” Berkery said. “It is a family. They see Carter ... at every single game; he is as much family as the boys on the baseball field. They recognize he has this disability, but they recognize him as family. We travel together, they include him as much as possible, they swim with him. They are role models at 11 years old.”

The affection the boys have for Carter extends beyond baseball and team travel. The North Colonie school district has a buddy system in place, and when all of the boys were in elementary school together, one of the players on the team, J.J. Corsi, stepped up to volunteer to be Carter’s buddy at school.  “Carter was at a point where he had some behaviors — he was hitting, and you didn’t know it was coming,” Jill Durant said. “Carter doesn’t hit because he is angry, it is sensory: He’ll kind of swat at you, he’s not trying to hurt anybody, he just does it. They weren’t letting him participate at school. One of our moms called me one night. Her son was going to the same elementary school and said she would reach out to the school. J.J. is around Carter enough; he loves Carter and wants to be his buddy.”
Sudden changes in behavior can be as aspect of autism, she said.  “He could be very happy, and in seconds it can change and he is having a meltdown,” Durant said. “It makes me want to cry sometimes to see the good things the boys do. Having Carter (around) has brought an awareness to these kids and their families. I know it seems silly to have an 11-year old boy come and sit down next to my son and pull grass with him. To me, I can’t tell you what that does inside. It’s great.”

Sean Martin, a local freelance writer, is a frequent contributor to the Times Union.

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