Children with special needs get a league of their own
MADISON, Wis. — It’s a scene some say is symbolic of our American culture: sitting at a ballpark, watching your favorite team, proudly wearing their gear and eating, well, anything and everything.
This is baseball. It’s a game that has many little kids trying to mimic their favorite sports heroes on a field of green in Anytown, USA. However, not every kid has a chance to play for an organized team or even an impromptu game among the neighborhood kids.
Call to the plate a local organization — West Madison Little League. In 2009, its Board of Directors recognized that not every child has that opportunity. So in 2010, the Challenger League was born. It’s just for kids, ages 8-16, with special needs.
In this league, every player bats, runs bases and scores. And unlike other baseball games, they don’t keep score or standings, and every player is an MVP. Every. Player.
What makes this even more unique is that every player has a “buddy.” Think of it this way: Their buddy is their person, their coach, their cheerleader. For some players, they are their arms and legs. What others thought was impossible becomes possible in this league.
This is the stuff that dreams are made of. Look around on any Saturday in September and watch the fans going crazy in the stands. Those are the parents and other family members of the All-Stars. If you watch long enough, you’ll see cheers and tears.
The character of Jimmy Dugan in the movie “A League of Their Own” said, “There’s no crying in baseball!” Make no mistake, these not tears of sadness, but are not tears of overwhelming joy and pride.
Moms and dads are seeing something they never thought they would witness in their lifetimes — their child, who deals with challenges on a daily basis, is playing baseball with nothing or no one in their way. Their child is part of a team, running or “wheeling” bases after hitting that monster home run, which is actually a grounder to the pitcher.
As a mom of a special needs child and a sister of someone with special needs, this was eye-opening. This program is the ultimate field of dreams and proves that anything is possible. Please watch the video and see for yourself. If you’d like to help the Challenger League, it’s always looking for volunteers, more players and, of course, donations.
Go to wmll.org to learn more.
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