Headshot Photo of Zach Certner
2014 Award Recipient


Project Special Needs Athletic Programs (SNAP)

Location Morristown, NJ

Issue Area Disability Justice | Philanthropy

Zach, an avid athlete, was disheartened to see a family friend, Mikey, repeatedly excluded from typical peer-building social activities such as organized sports, because his autism led others to avoid and reject him. Driven to create opportunities for kids like Mikey to meaningfully interact with their neuro-typical peers, Zach and his brother co-founded SNAP (Special Needs Athletic Programs), a project that provides opportunities for children with special needs to participate in athletic and social programming.

Captured in the organization’s motto, “Kids Helping Kids,” SNAP activates a network of teen mentors to run athletic clinics that give children with special needs the chance to interact with their peers. Through the program, Zach also advocates for autism awareness by leading sensitivity training at schools across seven states. SNAP has educated 3,500 students, trained 450 mentors, and raised more than $150,000 for the cause.

What has excited me the most is simply watching the faces of the children, parents, and mentors involved; I can never tell who is benefiting more from the clinics.

Zach Certner
“It is never too late, too early, or too often TO GIVE BACK AND MAKE THE WORLD A BETTER PLACE”
Helen Diller