MASSAPEQUA, N.Y. - A young man with autism has landed a dream job.
He went from being a huge professional wrestling fan to now working for a company that creates fan products.
Sam Ellenport says he's obsessed with the WWE, and plush figures that represent his favorite wrestlers.
"I love collecting them," Ellenport said. "They are soft, and when I watch them on TV I get to hold them high up in the air."
It's an obsession the parents of the 22-year-old with autism understand.
"They don't judge him, so Sammy considers them his friends," mother Randi Altman said. "One is supportive, one gives him courage."
Sammy often emailed the president of Uncanny Brands, which make the "Bleacher Creatures," with suggestions.
"His favorite wrestlers started dating, became and item, and he suggested bundling them together to sell, and they did it," father Craig Ellenport said.
During the pandemic, he asked for an internship. The company president found a way: Sammy could shoot promotions on his phone.
"Sammy was getting better and better, started taking classes," said Matthew Hoffman, president of Uncanny Brands.
Now his passion has turned into a purpose.
"He keeps on progressing and getting better, and now he's part of our company. It's incredible," Hoffman said.
The WWE expert is now helping inform decision, such as which Bleacher Creature should be featured when. The Connecticut-based company has hired Sammy as a content creator. He's churning out marketing images and videos for all the company's pop culture plush products.
"Anything I need to know about events or the wrestlers, I go to Sammy," said Todd LaBar, creative marketing manager of Uncanny Brands. "What Sammy has shown me is that everyone has it inside them to do great things, and don't judge a book by its cover."
"It makes me happy. It's something I never thought I would be able to do with my disability," Sammy said. "It's a big dream. I never thought I would have a job I would love so much."
His best job perk: He gets to keep his favorite stuffed animal by his side.
"My goal was to find a way to be obsessed with something that will make my Elmo obsession look healthy and helpful," Sammy said.
It's a success story that proves an obsession can become an occupation.
"For kids who have autism, finding their interest, and building skills around their interest, I think can be a real road for success," Hoffman said.
"It's what they're really good at. Without this obsession, he wouldn't have a career," Altman said.
"We love him. He is part of the family," Hoffman said.
From fan to dream job come true.
Sammy also speaks publicly to class groups of teens on the autism spectrum about pursuing their dreams.
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