Thursday, May 3, 2012

LeBoeuf Little League Challengers

Big Sis Brooke & Little Sis Lacey
Matt & Heather Johnston's oldest daughter Brooke loves softball. As in many families, little sis Lacey wasn't satisfied to sit on the sidelines. She wanted to play too. But since Lacey has Down Syndrome, the sign-up process wasn't easy. They soon learned that there was no team for Lacey. Matt & Heather formed the LeBoeuf Little League Challengers, an adaptive baseball team for kids with special needs.  Now the whole family spends weekends on the field with this amazing bunch of kids.

Heather was kind enough to answer some questions about 
the athletes and their team for me.

How did you come up with the idea for your team?
I decided to start the team because Brooke plays softball and Lacey really wanted to play. There was no team in our area for Lacey to play on so I decided if there wasn't a team for her then there isn't a team for the other children with specials needs so I started one.
I contacted LeBoeuf Little League to see about using their fields but the president of LeBoeuf Little League told me that Little League International had a division for disabled children and if I would be willing to run it he'd place our team under their insurance, we'd get use of the fields and equipement, and those very important uniforms.


How many kids are involved?
LeBoeuf Little League is only 1 of 2 Challenger Divisions in PA.
We typically have about 10 kids that play with various disabilities and ages. Our team is open to any child in Erie County ages 4-18. 


What sorts of adaptations do you make?
We do not keep score and every child gets to bat and play outfield. We have flat bases rather then raised ones so the wheelchairs can glide easily over them. We also have bigger, softer balls, and a T for hitting if needed. If there is something a child needs that we do not already have we will make every effort to get it. My theory is the game should adapt to the child and not the other way around.

Yep. that's Lacey playing outfield!
What effect has the activity had on Lacey? Brooke?
Brooke enjoys helping with the team, she usually plays catcher and Lacey absolutely loves to play "ball" as she calls it. She's very proud of her team shirt (all the kids are). 
How important are parent volunteers/ parent support to your program?
Our team functions best with volunteers who can assist children in wheelchairs around the basis and assist in the outfield but if we don't have volunteers for a game the parents will typically jump out on the field to help. Its all about the kids having fun, that is the most important part. 

How often do you practice? How often do you play games? 
We play every Saturday starting in May until the end of June. We find this works best for the families since during the week they are often going to therapies and doctor appointments.

What teams do you play against?
We play against the regular LeBoeuf Little League teams which has gone far better then I could have imagined. The Challengers love that they can play with the non disabled kids (great confidance booster) and its a great way to teach acceptace and tolarence for the non disabled kids.

Are you interested in volunteering? 
Would you like more information about forming a team in your area?
Check out the LeBoeuf Little Leage Challengers facebook page!


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