COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – Helping children diagnosed with autism connect and grow through the sport of tennis is the mission of the nonprofit organization ACEing Autism.

The central Ohio chapter began through a local high school player’s love and dedication to the sport.

With every swing of the racket and successful volley over the net, Arya Chabria aims to create a fun and safe environment for children with autism to learn the fundamentals of tennis.

“It’s hard for them to connect with other children, so having that area where they can be able to do that, a space where they’re safe to do that is a really important thing for these kids to have,” Chabria said.

As a sophomore tennis player at Columbus Academy, Chabria, ACEing Autism’s program director, is passionate about using her talents to run the program in central Ohio.

“And I realized there was no Columbus program after COVID and I wanted to bring it here and it means a lot to me that I can help impact these kids in a positive, meaningful way,” she said.

Eight children, including Stewart Knox, paired up with a volunteer staff of mostly high school students at the Racquet Club of Columbus, and smiles and laughter were plentiful with every drill.

“My name is Stewart Knox. I joined in 2021. I’m a really good tennis player,” Knox said, showing his personality on television.

Nathan Matthews has two daughters taking part in the program.

“For us, it’s just created a safe space where they can meet friends, interact with other people, interact with the coaches here and the volunteers which has meant a lot for them,” Matthews said.

He said he’s seen his daughters build confidence while being active playing the sport.

“Kind of show off what they’re able to do,” Matthews said. “They’re not limited to their autism diagnosis, but they’re able to do other things and interact with other people.”

Chabria hopes her players not only find a love for tennis through the program but also a welcome and supportive community.

“We do a bunch of exercises that make sure kids can connect and find friends,” she said.

Sunday’s session was just the second time these children have taken the court with the program, with Chabria hoping ACEing Autism will continue to grow with more participants, more volunteers, and more sessions.