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Staten Island Youth Soccer League Raises Money for Autism Awareness



Richard J. Nellis

By Randy Vogt, Director of Public Relations, Eastern New York Youth Soccer Association

May 29, 2014-One in 68 children are born with autism, which hits home for the Nellis family on Staten Island as their 18-year-old son, Richard J. Nellis, has Autism Spectrum Disorder, which he was diagnosed with when he was two.
His father, Richard, volunteers as the Third Vice President of the Staten Island Youth Soccer League (SIYSL), the southernmost league of the Eastern New York Youth Soccer Association (ENYYSA), and his “real job” is Manager of Business and Production Operations for NBA Entertainment. Both the SIYSL and the NBA support autism causes.
Richard J. experienced 15 minutes of fame by appearing in the NBA’s in-studio video on autism awareness. He graduated from Port Richmond High School last June with an Advanced Regents Diploma and now attends the College of Staten Island.
“Our proudest moment was during his high school graduation when, as a member of the chorus, he surprised our family with a solo during the performance of Michael Jackson’s earth song,” said the proud dad.
Richard J.’s musical ability has blossomed under the GRACE Foundation’s Graceful Glee Program. The GRACE (Getting Resources for Autistic Children’s Equality) Foundation is committed to support, educate and enhance the quality of life for children/adults and their families living with Autism Spectrum Disorder.

“Although Richard has not played soccer, he has done the PA announcing during this year’s March Madness Indoor Tournament,” his father stated. “He has also helped in soccer field set-up and clean-up and with the concession stand like his 16-year-old brother Daniel and 12-year-old sister Kaitlyn, both of whom play in the SIYSL. Soccer has become a major part of our family, with two kids playing, me coaching and being a former club director plus current VP of the league, and my wife Joann helping me coach the last two years as well as run the concession stand last year. So we thought we could use soccer and the league as a vehicle for autism awareness.”
The SIYSL has been selling blue T-shirts for $10 at its fields. The T-shirts utilize the puzzle piece, a traditional symbol for autism, with the SIYSL logo. On May 14, the SIYSL’s St. John Neumann soccer club raised money through a Zumba Night at their church.
A total of nearly $2,000 has been raised so far this spring for the GRACE Foundation with T-shirt sales continuing through the conclusion of the Spring Season.
“The Staten Island Youth Soccer League is very pleased to support the good work of the GRACE Foundation,” said Bill Smith, who was recently re-elected to his sixth term as President of the SIYSL.

With 123,843 youth soccer players––68,587 boys and 55,256 girls––and more than 25,000 volunteers, the non-profit Eastern New York Youth Soccer Association (ENYYSA) stretches from Montauk Point, Long Island to the Canadian border. Members are affiliated with 11 leagues throughout the association, which covers the entire state of New York east of Route 81. Eastern New York exists to promote and enhance the game of soccer for children and teenagers between the ages of 5 and 19 years old, and to encourage the healthy development of youth players, coaches, referees and administrators. All levels of soccer are offered––from intramural, travel team and premier players as well as Special Children. No child who wants to play soccer is turned away. Eastern New York is a proud member of the United States Soccer Federation and United States Youth Soccer Association. For more information, please log on to, which receives nearly 300,000 hits annually from the growing soccer community.




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