Through Tuckahoe Challenge Division and RVAccess, students with special needs can enjoy free baseball and soccer.
These two separate programs serve a very similar purpose: to strengthen the self-esteem of young students with disabilities while allowing them to have an opportunity to enjoy soccer and baseball.
Tuckahoe Little League started their Challenger Division in 1990 “with a handful of players and a dream of giving every child the opportunity to play baseball,” according to their mission statement. The team travels to other Challenger Divisions to compete, and they enjoy it to the fullest extent. There are more than 900 Challenger Divisions worldwide with over 30,000 children.
Normally the players start with basics such as working on how to throw the ball with a hula hoop, and work towards learning how the game of baseball works, including positions and running. At the end they always yell a cheer that each kid creates.
“The Tuckahoe Little League family treats us like any other team or family out there. Since I am the director for the Challengers and a coach for my daughter’s regular softball team, I am very vocal about the Challenger team which has brought awareness to the forefront of this program offered. Integration has played a huge role [in] uniting everyone together,” said, Brian Liso.
The team is all about having a strong community and spreading awareness of the program. Sometimes the team plays against younger teams around Tuckahoe Little League or against the board members.
“The best part of my role as the Director and Coach is that I see these kids grow and learn every day. They are just as capable as any other child out there. They just needed someone who cares and is willing to implement a routine and invest in them. We have truly become a family,” said Brian.
RVAccess offers children with special needs the opportunity to play soccer. It is a cost-free program. They also offer the use of hula-hoops, cones, and other fun games.
“Many of the exceptional ed students at Freeman are interested in soccer, and RVAccess is a great program for this,” said Freeman Librarian Laurie Kaplan.
Each athlete will have a buddy, who is like their guide that encourages them while playing soccer.
Mrs. Kaplan encourages Freeman students to volunteer at RVAccess. “Students who are able to play can get out there and make friendships with the kids while staying active,” she said.
Senior Mac Jervey has been volunteering at RVAccess as a buddy for six years.
“My favorite part about it was building a relationship with Rachel (the girl I worked with). It was so fun seeing her and all the other happy kids every week. We both helped each other a lot. She honestly became one of my best friends that I could just sit with and talk about life with every week,” she Mac.
Both of these programs are service opportunities available to Freeman students, and the directors of each program are always looking for volunteers of any age.
“[Both programs are] a great part of our community to connect and teach skills, while helping out the community,” said Ms. Kaplan.
“We want as many volunteers to help out [as possible]. I have had many volunteers return season after season because of the program and the kids. The players really connect with the volunteers and this is just another amazing aspect of the kids and how they touch our lives for the better,” said Brian Liso.