LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) - A Buffalo City man is one of the best in the world at what he does and wants to use his unique skill to help people of all abilities.
Diagnosed with autism at age 3, cup stacking competitor Jesse Horn said the sport opened up a whole new world for him. Now, he wants to do the same for others.
Despite practicing one to two hours each day, Horn never gets tired sport stacking or of seeing people's reactions to his skills.
"I'm actually one of the fastest sport stackers in my age division,” he said.
The goal of sport stacking is simple: stack 12 cups as fast as you can. Actually doing it is not as easy. But Horn has plenty of experience, starting at age 9.
After stumbling upon the sport on TV, he asked his aunt, Lola Longyhore, for a set of cups.
"In my mind I was like, man I gotta try this so bad,” Horn said. “The rest is history from there."
"Those cups just took him over and he's been doing it ever since,” Longyhore said, adding that prior to stacking, Horn’s autism got in the way of him living life to the fullest.
"It was like a switch turned off. There was no eye contact. You'd call his name and it seemed like he wasn't hearing you,” she said. "All of that changed for him after cup stacking."
Horn has gained hand-eye coordination and speed, but also confidence and the ability to connect.
"Just those little steps you saw along the line of him being able to communicate with people; I'm choked up right now because it's miraculous,” Longyhore said.
Now at age 20, Horn has traveled across the country, making friends and competing.
He took part in the AAU Junior sport stacking Olympics six years in a row, and has come back with six gold medals.
His next goal is to share the sport that's lifted him up so high with the world, starting with area kids who have autism.
"They repeat stuff over and over again, and when they repeat the sequence of sport stacking, it makes them feel comfortable and light up and communicate with other people and break out of their bubble."
Horn is contacting area organizations that provide therapy for kids of different abilities trying to do stacking presentations.
"Once they're interested, it can open doors like it did with Jess,” Longyhore said.
He hopes to pass on his love of the sport, or at least share the lessons he's learned, which are applicable to stacking, autism and life in general.
"Don't give up, and try and try again,” Horn said.
Horn is still trying to coordinate with local organizations to complete his goal of teaching stacking to kids with autism. To contact Horn, call (608) 418-0628.
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