generous sponsorship of amazing community partners who never hesitate to help our children. Please take the time to visit them on social media and let them know how grateful you are for their unwavering support!
Challenger baseball is a family of enthusiastic kids, vigilant parents, encouraging coaches and compassionate sponsor’s. Together, we create magic on the baseball diamond. Our kids get a chance play ball and have fun. They develop self confidence while learning important social skills. In return, we are the recipients of ear to ear smiles, bear hugs and earfuls of giggles and laughter! None of this would be possible without your very appreciated support!
The 2014 season is turned out to be another great year! We set a new record for player registration this Spring. We were blessed with great weather and played hard. We partied at our annual family picnic in March. In April, we watched and learned from the pros when Phinley and the Threshers invited us to their season opening game. We concluded our spring season at the end of April with Closing Ceremonies. Due to the May showers, we had to put our regularly scheduled annual end-of-the-season Jamboree on hold.
We have now rolled into the second half of the year, with a full slate of events for our kids. In August, we headed to the "Trop" to watch the Rays take on the Orioles. In September, we return to the diamond for our "Fall Ball" season. Then in October, we topped the year off by finally celebrating with our Challenger friends from around the state, at the “Lou Caprara Memorial Florida Challenger Jamboree”. We have included a photo journal for you to see; it is a testimonial about the impact that your support has on our kids. We will soon be closing out the year with a holiday party at our annual “Santa & Dance” celebration. What a way to end the year!
As we mentioned above... We are family.
We could not, would not be successful without your help !
We look forward to making more "magic" together.
As always “On behalf of our kids... We thank you for your continuing, generous support !”
Jim Scheuerman, Director of Challenger Division of Clearwater Little League
CLEARWATER – Dozens of athletes from all over Florida gathered at the Saturn Avenue ball field on Saturday, Oct. 11 for the annual Little League Challenger Jamboree. It was a beautiful day, and the complex was filled with dignitaries, athletes, volunteers, parents and friends. They were all there to celebrate the accomplishments and achievements of a special group of athletes who are doing what they love – playing ball.
The Florida Challenger Little League is made up of special needs children from all over Florida. The organization, part of the Little League operation, was founded in 1989. Jim Scheuerman is the Clearwater coordinator of the group and has been involved for years. He says he is committed to the league.
“We start the same time as the regular Little League,” he said. “The difference is we don’t keep score or count outs. We just try to make it an enjoyable experience for the kids. We tailor the program to each child and work at their level no matter what their age – 4 or 24.”
The Jamboree is held every year and is part of the worldwide Jamboree, which is held every year in Virginia Beach. Scheuerman says there is no age limit for the athletes to compete in the Jamboree or in the regular league. He’s been involved because his 17-year-old son Brian has Down syndrome and got involved many years ago. Scheuerman says he loves the sport.
“If I told him he couldn’t play anymore, he wouldn’t understand it,” he said. “He gets to see his friends; it is a way of bonding. It is a way for the Challenger kids and their families to have friends and to play with kids on their own level. It’s like having a support group without having a support group.”
Ken Davis is a volunteer with the organization, and like so many others is a parent of a special needs child. He can’t speak highly enough of the Challenger organization.
“My daughter, Beverly, is 20 years old and has been playing with the league for six or seven years,” he said. “She’s autistic, and as a result, she doesn’t get a lot of social interaction. Here, she does. She loves it and she takes part in the Special Olympics too.”
Davis says an important part of the program is that the rules are lax, allowing for the athletes to all participate and have fun.
“It is all about socialization and team building,” he said. “We’re giving these kids the chance to play games that we take for granted for non-disabled kids. Wheelchair kids get a hit and a volunteer pushes them around the bases. There isn’t a sad face; they are just a bunch of kids who are together and having fun.”
Davis says the Challenger program and events such as the Jamboree also bring parents together for important interaction.
“As the result of meeting and chatting with other parents, we discovered that there was an implant available for Beverly that would help control her seizures, we got it and she has had no seizures since,” Davis said. “You also learn other important information such as finding out about a dentist or doctor who does not mind working on special needs kids. Just the information exchange is extraordinary.”
Another parent, Tawana Lampley of Haines City, was walking the grounds with her athlete son, Javoris, 9, who plays on the Haines City team. Despite being in a wheelchair, Javoris was all smiles as he encountered one mascot after another. First it was Phinley, for the Clearwater Threshers; next it was D-Jay, the mascot of the Dunedin Blue Jays; finally it was Raymond from the Tampa Bay Rays.
“He loves it,” his mother said.
Scheuerman, for his efforts over the past 17 years, received a special award at the Jamboree. He was honored with the first “Volunteer of the Year” award by the Challenger organization. Scheuerman is the first to tell you that he doesn’t do it for the recognition or the awards. He does it out of love.
“I get so many hugs every day,” he said. “The kids enjoy this so much. I mean we do it for the kids and the reward is just watching their smiles and the enjoyment they get. The favorite thing for a child to do is hitting that ball, that’s the best thing.”
By BRIAN GOFF
CLEARWATER — Boys and girls with various disabilities took on a fun-filled challenge Saturday at the Countryside Sports Complex. They were there to hit, run and field to their hearts content.There were no scores kept, everyone on a team batted before alternately taking the field and, perhaps best of all, nobody made an out. Forget runs and hits, the smiles were too numerous to count — on the faces of participants as well as volunteers and family members.Count 8-year-old Ethan Gonzalez, a Challenger ballplayer in his fifth season, and his 10-year-old brother Nicholas, who helps out, among that group.“I love the fact that (Ethan is) able to play sports, that he’s doing the same thing as other kids,” Janny Gonzalez said oh her son. “That he feels like he’s just another little boy, because deep down that’s what they are.”Added Jolean Thomas, whose 13-year-old daughter Madason Deskins played ball Saturday, “I think it helps Madason feel involved to play a sport.”Opening ceremonies for the 2013 Florida Challenger Jamboree featured Clearwater Mayor George Cretekos tossing out the first pitch and a heartfelt speech by three-time World Series champion Darold Knowles, whose brother is disabled. After a day filled with ballgames on five fields the activities culminated with a dance indoors.“Little League is one of the most important programs we have in the country, because baseball is the national pastime,” the mayor said. “Everybody can play it, no matter your abilities. It’s just exciting to give these kids a chance to play.”Knowles, 72, has a 75-year-old disabled brother and wished there was a Challenger Division of Little League where they grew up in Missouri.“He never had the opportunity,” said Knowles, who pitched for the Oakland A’s during their three-peat (World Series champs in 1972-74). “They didn’t have anything like this. I’m thrilled and I’m happy to be a part of it.”So too were many of the 60 volunteers who pitched, batted and made their way around the bases with about 200 players, ages 5-28.“I like how they’re trying and stick with it,” said Quinn Blauvelt, a Clearwater High baseball player who has been a Challenger volunteer for four years.Toni Yeomans, her sister Amy Bleskachek, along with her daughters Jordan Yeomans and Jennifer Allen, have all volunteered for various times.“Jordan and I got involved with in when she was in middle school, because we played Little League and they said they needed help with this,” Toni Yeomans said.Then there’s Buck King, who volunteered for years and did not have a handicapped child involved. He met his wife, who had a handicapped child that went on to play Challenger.“He was all about the Challenger kids,” said Jim Scheuerman, who with the late Lou Caprara helped organize the program through the Clearwater Little League 16 years ago.The late afternoon dance closed out the activities.“It was fantastic,” Scheuerman said. “We had a dance for them and since it was so close to Halloween they came in costume.”At that dance, Scheuerman welcomed a touching response from a parent who took her son to his first Challenger Jamboree.“She started crying and said, ‘I’ve never been to anything this fantastic,’” Scheuerman recalled.The Challenger Jamboree is an annual event. Rain cancelled last spring’s session, so it was moved to this fall. It will be played at its usual time again next spring.
Written by: GameOn4Kids.com (Oct 2013)