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Sports · July 24, 2014

Soccer helps local man with autism expand his horizons

Photo/Mark Trible
Casey McCorkindale catches a ball at Rady Park as he warms up for a pick-up soccer game. The 22-year-old uses the game to socialize and stay active.
Photo/Mark Trible
Once frustrated with his autism, McCorkindale sees the pitch as a place to mature. “I go to the park to make the best of it,” he says. “I always try to make the best of it.”
It can be a roller coaster. You have good days and bad days. There are times you feel like you’re not going anywhere.
— Casey McCorkindale on living with autism
Casey McCorkindale
• Age: 22

• Home: Warrenton

• Condition: High-functioning autism

• Family: Mother, Susan McCorkindale Pearmund; brother, Cuyler, 15; stepfather, Chris Pearmund; father, Stuart McCorkindale, deceased.

• Education: Fauquier High School, 2011.

• Interests: Sports, poetry and guitar.

• Goal: Help others with special needs through sports and other activities.

• Favorite athletes: Lionel Messi and Eli Manning
The lanky 22-year-old laces his cleats, stretches and lines up a free kick. His foot strikes the ball, sending it through the goal nearly 25 yards away.

Few could peg Casey McCorkindale as autistic by the way he plays. The young man can’t control his circumstances. Instead, he focuses on how to best utilize them.

“Nine times out of 10, when you find someone who is autistic, they’re not social,” McCorkindale says. “I think soccer is a good way to be social on and off the pitch.”

Three evenings per week, the Warrenton resident plays pick-up soccer at Rady Park. He plays for fun and to socialize with others who love the sport. McCorkindale knows the games helped him mature in adulthood. He now lives alone and hopes to help others with special needs do the same. His time on the fields taught him leadership and responsibility.

He “grew up on sports” and four years ago fell in love with the global game. McCorkindale intently watched this summer’s World Cup matches and has become a fan of one of the game’s best players. He easily identifies with Argentinian star Lionel Messi.

Messi at age 8 got diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome, one of three conditions in the autism spectrum.

“I look at Messi and all he’s done, I look up to it,” McCorkindale says. “To me, it’s nothing. It’s a way of life. You do the same things as anyone else does.”

McCorkindale learned of his disorder as an eighth-grader at Marshall Middle School. He struggled with the realities in his first three years at Fauquier High School.

“There were times it was really frustrating,” he says. “I wanted answers . . . . It can be a roller coaster. You have good days and bad days. There are times you feel like you’re not going anywhere.”

Five suspensions before his senior year troubled McCorkindale and his family. He struggled, watching his father’s battle with pancreatic cancer. In spring of 2011, Stuart McCorkindale died.

Casey McCorkindale remembers the last time he saw his father, in a casket before cremation. It sparked something in the teenager.

“I knew there was time left for me. I tried to make the best of it. I said to myself, ‘I’m going to be the leader of my team. My family is my team’.”

He graduated the following spring. His mother, Susan McCorkindale Pearmund, witnessed a change in her son.

“He was amazing when his dad passed away,” Mrs. Pearmund says. “He wanted to grow up like everyone else, which is what his dad wanted to see.”

Casey McCorkindale has taken college classes and worked a handful of jobs since his graduation.

He watches sports, plays guitar and writes poetry in his free time. Each day, he leaves his one-room apartment in Old Town Warrenton and walks around.

The employees at Chick-fil-A know him by name. When he leaves the restaurant, each worker says goodbye.

“How would you describe me?” McCorkindale asks friend and Chick-fil-A employee Brendan Adamec.

“You make people happy,” Adamec replies.

His pleasant demeanor influences friends and family members.

Kelsey Rice fondly recalls bus rides spent with her pal from their homes in Upperville to middle school.

“He’s just a great guy,” Rice says. “A loyal friend. I remember him writing poetry and songs for me then. I still have all of them.”

A year ago, Mrs. Pearmund allowed her son to live alone. She helps him with day-to-day responsibilities, making sure he gets to doctor and dentist appointments. The twice-published author also manages his finances.

McCorkindale’s ability to maximize his potential has influenced his mother to start a group home for those with special needs.

In January, she had an idea. She began a venture to open “Casey’s Place,” a group home that will help provide opportunities. Jobs, social events and residency top her list of plans for the facility.

“When I see Casey get up every single day and do things with such passion and determination, it makes me want to do this even more,” she says.

Mrs. Pearmund believes the home will open in two years. She’s currently looking for real estate in Old Town for her venture.

When the home opens, McCorkindale knows where he fits. He hopes to be the foundation’s activities director.

Until then, he sends out job applications and walks around town. Three evenings a week, he heads to Rady Park. Pick-up soccer games continue to motivate.

“Right now he loves soccer,” Rice says. “He’s made a lot of good friends in soccer. I could definitely see him working as an activities director. With his personality, I think he’d be great for it.”

McCorkindale’s face lights up at mention of the possibility.

“I feel like I can take the leadership skills off the pitch and have it translate,” he says. “The way I present myself, I want to make the best impression I can.

“When I step on the pitch, I leave everything behind. . . . I go to the park to make the best of it. I always try to make the best of it.”

Click here for more information about “Casey’s Place.”

The foundation’s next progress meeting about will be held on Wednesday, Aug 13 at 3 p.m. at the John Barton Payne building in Warrenton.

Anyone interested in attending should email Jennifer Goldman at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

>> Please, send sports news items and/or photos to Sports Editor Mark Trible: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).
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