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‘It’s just being a cheerleader’: Man devotes most of his time to help kids with special needs

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ADA, Mich., -- Rick Ayotte never seems to have trouble finding the time to make an impact on the lives of others.

"For a long time, I knew there was more I could do," Ayotte told FOX 17 News. "I knew there was another reason for me to be here."

Since changing careers three years ago, Ayotte said it's been his "calling" to do more to give back and help the special needs community in West Michigan. His
volunteer efforts span several organizations, and occupy much of his free time.

Ayotte began his mission to make a difference with My Team Triumph, a non-profit group of runners who volunteer to assist athletes who are physically unable to run by becoming their "legs".

He credits the group with providing the spark to do even more to give back. That spark led him to the West Michigan Miracle League, which allows kids with special needs to play baseball.

"From that very first game as assistant coach, I just felt like this is where I need to be," he explained. "You know, it's being a cheerleader. You need a cheerleader for these kids. They've never experienced this, so to be a part of that is amazing."

Ayotte is active every season with the league and recently became involved with the Special Hockey Association, where kids with special needs get the chance to get out on the ice. He currently serves on the Board of Directors for the group.

"He does everything we need him to do, whether it's putting stickers on the players helmets, or getting parents to sign waivers or just helping kids get around,"
said Marie Sly, Team Manager for the Special Hockey Association. "He's just there, and he's willing to give everything he has to help...I don't know if there's
anybody that's more involved in the special needs community in Grand Rapids."

Ayotte, who has no kids of his own, said the kids he helps have become somewhat of an "extended family" for him.

"It's so much fun," he said. "These kids are no different than anybody else. These kids have personality, they have spark, they have talent... I love where my life is going and what I've been able to do."

Ayotte is also involved with Cannonsburg Challenged Ski Association and the Autism Services of Kent County, just to name a few of his other activities.

As the November Pay it Forward Person of the Month, Ayotte will receive a $500 dollar check, courtesy of Independent Bank.

Know someone who FOX 17 should feature as our next Pay it Forward Person of the Month?  Nominate them here.

Meet Izaak Oldenburg, our October Pay it Forward Person of the Month.

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