Pamela Mohr 2014-05-13 12:55:27
Challengers Play On Paul Lawless of Rockville Centre, New York, says there’s no finer feeling than watching his 17-year-old son Connor play baseball. “He gets so excited when he puts that uniform on,” Lawless explains. Connor is autistic and non-verbal, but he’s like any typical teenager trying to wallop the ball when he’s at bat. He’s part of the Challenger League for special needs players that Rockville Centre Lions help support. “Lions and the whole community are really behind these kids,” Lawless says. When Lions learned two years ago that the local Little League Challenger Division was in danger of ending because of funding problems, they stepped up to the plate. Their support is giving a fun-filled playing experience to ballplayers who have cerebral palsy, autism or other conditions that preclude them playing on another team. “Teams are set up according to abilities rather than age, and can include as many as 15 to 20 players,” explains Lion Ed Asip. “Each player is assigned a middle or high school buddy to help them at bat and maneuver in the field. These kids get the whole game experience of having their names announced over the public address system when they come to bat or make a play in the field. It’s fun for them and their parents.” Lions sponsor a team of 18 players and gave a $5,000 donation to the Challengers last year. “They have happily informed us that the donation will keep the league afloat for the next three years,” says Lion Patti McNally. Lawless says that one of the best things about Connor playing in the league is the opportunity to socialize. “We knew when he was 5 or 6 that he was different, but the Challenger League lets him have fun. The buddies who help out the players during the game are like friends. He doesn’t have the opportunity to hang out with friends like his sister, who goes to movies and does other typical things with her group of friends. Parents get to socialize, too, with other parents who have the same experiences with their special needs kids.” Families aren’t the only ones moved by watching the Challengers play. Asip says Lions voted to fund the league after watching a game. The donation came from the proceeds of the club’s annual Dinner in the Dark, which serves a dual purpose. Not only does it raise awareness by blindfolding guests during dinner to simulate the challenges the blind face daily, but it also raises money for service activities. In addition to the Challengers, the club gave another contribution to the Long Island Bombers, a Beep baseball team for blind adults.
Published by International Association of Lions Clubs . View All Articles.
This page can be found at http://digital.lionmagazine.org/article/Raising+Funds/1711378/209520/article.html.