The Brightside: Little League Challenger Division
SALISBURY, Md. – With a swing of a bat, a jog around the bases, and some helping hands, Wicomico county is setting the standard on Delmarva with Little League Challengers. The county is showing that no child in the community, regardless of physical or mental ability, will be left behind.
Little League Challengers is a modified baseball program for those with physical or mental challenges. Like many families, Charissa Thomas and Heather Shrieves say their journey with their kiddos hasn’t been easy. “I don’t want them to ever feel like I’m not good enough to play, or I can’t participate like my sibling, no, they can do everything, they just do it a little bit differently,” says Thomas.
However, groups like the Little League Challengers give their kids hope and confidence. “To see a child you’ve never seen the smile come out here, be able to hit a ball and go around the bases and think that they’ve just hit the home run derby winning one, it’s the best feeling in the world,” says Shrieves.
Four teams full of kids who we’re told typically may be sitting out on the sidelines, are now practicing, running, and playing. Organizers say this opportunity gives kids a hands-on experience with baseball skills and community engagement. “For us, it was like wow, like look at this for our kids, but it’s not just our kids like we’re all on the same team, we’re all helping all of these kids have these experiences,” says Thomas.
James Simmons, a Recreation Superintendent with Wicomico County parks and Recreation says he’s able to watch these little athletes blossom throughout their season. Not just blossom, but learn that there is a place for them just like everyone else. “What is one word that could describe the program, the facility, and the field, to me that’s opportunity.” Simmons adds, “To be a part of a team, to get to learn those life lessons and be a part of that, that’s something these kids have gotten the opportunity to do necessarily.”
Parents say they’ve been wishing their children would know true inclusion for years, and this certainly shows inclusion through love and action. “It’s good to see kiddos from all ends of the spectrum who have different types of abilities and really just to understand we’re all the same, we all just want to play, and have fun,” says Thomas. Shrieves adds, “Come watch a game, that’ll do it for you. I promise you, your heart will overflow.”
Part of Little League Challengers allows high school students from across Wicomico County to come and be a buddy for the athletes, which organizers say is heartwarming to see.
The Little League teams still have a few more games in their season, click here to find out more.