Wave player who has brother with autism working to help others

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MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- Nick Perera has it all. The 27-year-old Milwaukee Wave standout is trying to help his team win another major indoor soccer league championship.

"I really do love the sport. I watch soccer. I read soccer. I wake up and I think about soccer. It's like, my passion. It's all I talk about. My fiancee gets made at me because I talk about it too much, you know," Perera said.

Born in Spain and raised in Belgium, the engaged and engaging Perera speaks English, Spanish, Italian, Dutch and French.

The former start at UC Santa Barbara owns national championships in college and in the pros.

He also has a brother with autism.

"My brother is low-functioning, so he's non-verbal. He doesn't speak. Obviously, when he needs something or he wants something from you, you have to kind of -- it is a bit of a guessing game. Not anymore, but it used to be. It was challenging," Perera said.

Challenging, but Perera will also tell you that his brother Luke has been a blessing, and has given the soccer player a big assist in life.

"The person you are is molded by that. It's not so much of, 'I treat people this way or that way,' it's just that you become a person that is in tune with other people and in tune with the need. You just kinda become a person that is tolerant and respectful and loving," Perera said.

Ronny Thompson is the same way. Three years ago, love inspired him to found the Athletes for Autism Foundation.

"My daughter was killed in a bad car accident, and I wanted to do something extraordinary by helping the community," Thompson said.

The Athletes for Autism Foundation helps a great deal by seeking to enhance the quality of life for families affected by autism by supplementing traditional treatment therapies with health, wellness, fitness and nutrition.

"The exercise essentially lets a kid be a kid again. We are looking at, you know, pulling that out of them. A lot of times they are so confined in what they do and they've got a schedule -- that it just allows them to play and be free," Libby Harty, with the Athletes for Autism Foundation said.

"Once you learn that these kids can still do what we do, you find they're very special kids to work with -- very easy to work with," Thompson said.

Thompson has found Nick Perera easy to work with. A perhaps not-so-chance meeting got the ball rolling. Nick's background and heart for the cause make for a winning combination.

"When I hang out with kids with autism, it's fun. It's genuine. I mean, that's the most real way of saying it -- is they're genuine. There's no hidden messages or cards under the table. It's all super genuine, so it's really nice," Perera said.

Beyond soccer, one of Nick Perera's goals is to work with kids. Thanks to his brother Luke, he'll never be far away from youngsters with autism.

"When my brother smiles, it's a genuine smile. There is no falsity to it. It's a real, genuine thing, so it's a really beautiful thing," Perera said.

CLICK HERE to learn more about the Athletes for Autism Foundation.