Kids/Students Buddies: Sam & Sawyer


If you have doubts about where to volunteer at Grace, here's a story that may point you in the right direction. This is a paper written by Sam Matlack, a 7th-grader who spends time on Saturday evenings volunteering as a buddy with LIFT, our disability ministry. Check out Sam's experience with his buddy Sawyer:

Last summer, I met a boy named Pedro who is deaf. We went to the zoo together and that was what really started my heart and passion for children with disabilities. I realized that he didn’t have very many friends because most kids were scared of people with disabilities. I, for one, am not. When I heard that there was a boy with autism at my church, who couldn’t attend Sunday School by himself, I immediately wanted to meet him. I realized that just by hanging out with Sawyer, I could make a difference in his life.
So far, over the last 7 months, I’ve spent 21 Saturdays, 26.5 hours, which is 1590 minutes with a pretty cool kid named Sawyer. Sawyer just turned 8 years old. He has a sensory processing disorder (a lot like autism), which means that he is sensitive to certain things, such as loud noises, bright lights, and fast flashing things such as stage lights. Pretty much all of these things happen in Sunday School. For this reason, I get to be Sawyer’s buddy. If I wasn’t there, it would be too overwhelming and a little bit scary too. But if any of that happens while I’m there, we just walk out of the room, and just chill-ax a little bit. At first I was a little nervous, because I’ve never really done something like this before. But over the weeks, we’ve gotten to be great friends. Every time that I feel a little depressed or just down about something, I just think that I’ll get to see Sawyer on Saturday. I know that I’ve encouraged Sawyer a lot but I don’t know if he realizes that he’s helped me a lot too!
One out of every 68 children have autism. Seven months ago, I didn’t even know what autism was! I’ve grown a lot in this experience. My height and my brain have grown in these last 7 months! Now, I’ll never think of fireworks or my mom dropping a pan in the kitchen in the same way. I can imagine what that loud noise, or those bright flashing lights would be like for any kid with autism.
When I first started being Sawyers buddy, I never even thought about the Make a Difference Project. I just did it to help kids with disabilities like Sawyer. Some weeks, I felt tired, stressed, and even one week I felt like throwing up. But I’ve never regretted going in the end. Actually being with Sawyer makes me feel happy and energized.
I’m thankful that just by hanging out with Sawyer, I could make a difference in his life. Do you feel stressed? Do you feel tired? Do you feel overwhelmed? Then find a kid who is challenged in some way and try to help them. Trust me, it’s a proven remedy!

To learn more about LIFT and how you can be a buddy, visit


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