The age-old Golden Rule is the foundation of The Golden Soldiers, a faith-based nonprofit organization I founded. We’re focused on spreading the idea of “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” by hosting events for individuals with special needs and their families.
The group was created to perform random acts of kindness, but turned into something much more when I volunteered at a kids’ baseball game. I was buddied up with Brent, a young baseball player with special needs, and we had a blast. We talked about all sorts of things, and he loved playing with my car keys. After the game, my wife, Melanie, and I were making our way back to the car, when I looked back to see Brent chasing after me with his mom doing her best to keep up. I stopped, turned around and was compelled to run toward him too. When we met, he gave me a huge hug and kept telling me how thankful he was I played baseball with him. I remember being in awe of how grateful he was for our new friendship. After meeting Brent, I began praying about the purpose of The Golden Soldiers. It was during one of these prayers when I felt the charge to focus on hosting events for individuals and families with special needs.
Seven years have gone by since The Golden Soldiers was formed. For years I was working in the software industry during the week and holding events on the weekends. I felt I was honoring my calling, but I was ready for the next step. Families with special needs began telling me how they were treated with the utmost acceptance and kindness at our events, but did not feel they received the same treatment when they ventured out on their own. These conversations would keep me awake at night.
One morning while sitting at a coffee shop, it came to me that I could educate people on how to better treat individuals with special needs. My life was about to change yet again.
Last year, I stepped out in faith, quit my day job and launched a social enterprise called Special Needs Certified. The company educates businesses, cities, churches, volunteers and other organizations to better understand, engage with and serve people with special needs. Special Needs Certified also has an online platform where families and individuals can find special needs-friendly businesses in their cities, share their experiences and engage in conversations with the community. In a few short months, multiple cities have become special needs-certified, and 23 states now have special needs-certified businesses through our program.
My faith has taught me to judge no one, forgive everyone and love always. If I can remember to do this and teach others to do the same, then I am confident we can create a society where everyone, regardless of their abilities, will feel love and acceptance.
Lindsey L. Turner is founder of The Golden Soldiers and president of Special Needs Certified. If your organization or conference needs to train volunteers, employees or a session leader to speak on the subject of special needs, he would be happy to partner with you, offer training or attend your event. For more information, visit specialneedscertified.com.