Win 4 Kids Finalist- Antigonish Baseball Association

Antigonish_Baseball_Assoc_Photo-_600pxl.jpgChildren with physical and cognitive special needs in Antigonish will be hitting home runs this summer as part of a new baseball recreation program. 

A partnership between Antigonish Baseball Association and the Town of Antigonish, the Antigonish Challenger Baseball program helps children aged four to 18 develop physical and social skills, build self-esteem, make new friends, meet other kids and families in the community and become part of a team. 

“The most important thing is that each participant is treated like every other minor baseball player. All players receive a uniform, use the same equipment and play their games at the local baseball fields. Able-bodied 'buddies' are assigned to each player to help provide a safe and enjoyable experience,” said Randy Crouse, president of the Antigonish Baseball Association.

The Challenger Baseball program does more than provide opportunities for children with cognitive and/or physical special needs to play organized baseball, it also shows the community that children with special needs can play organized baseball and allows youth and young adults to give back' to the community by being 'buddies'. Being part of a sport like baseball enhances the lives of children with special needs and their families.

The goal is to register 30 or more children for the program in the first year and grow from there. Children will play once a week for a 10-week period over the summer. There will be special 'Baseball Days' when children and their families can participate in fun baseball-related activities. If there is enough interest and support, organizers hope to expand the program to twice a week in 2015.

GoodLife Kids Foundation funding would be used to purchase baseball equipment, including helmets, bats, and coloured baseballs and beeping bases for individuals with visual impairments. It will also be used for field rentals, uniforms for children, shirts for volunteers, medals to recognize participants’ achievements at the end of the year, advertising to increase awareness of the program, and educational efforts to reach volunteers and 'buddies'.

Twitter – @antigonishball

Website - www.antigonishbaseball.com

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The Confidence to Try #FEELGOODFRIDAY Lukas is a 10-year-old Raptors fan who plays basketball with his local chapter of Special Olympics, but it wasn’t that long ago that he was afraid to join a team. Lukas is an outgoing kid who likes to make friends and has always been very active. But his early experiences in organized physical activity were not positive. One of his biggest challenges with autism is struggling to follow directions in large groups. He was often told he was doing things wrong and even that he would embarrass the team. “These negative comments deflated his confidence, and he became afraid to try new things,” explained his mom Lisa. When he was eight, Lukas took part in the Sports of All Sorts program at the Geneva Centre for Autism. The supportive environment in the Sports of All Sorts program, funded by a GoodLife Kids grant, was a real game-changer for him. Constant encouragement and positive reinforcement gave Lukas a safe space to explore new activities without a fear of being judged. With one-on-one support he played basketball, baseball, tennis, and golf. “We’re so glad to make physical activity a regular part of Lukas’ life and we’ve found ways for him to continue practicing at home,” said Lisa. “We bought a tennis net for the backyard, and now that he’s not afraid, he loves to go to glow-in-the-dark mini-putt with his dad!” As Lukas turned around on the basketball court to wave to his mom, he gave her two big thumbs up and her eyes welled up with tears of joy. “Watching him enjoy himself, I’m overwhelmed with happiness and pride,” she shared. “He has talents! But most of all, he has regained a belief in himself – that he CAN do it – and that is so powerful.”

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