In 2013, our son Owen was born nine weeks early at only three pounds, 14oz. Shortly after birth, he was diagnosed with a rare genetic disorder called Long-Chain 3-Hydroxyacyl-CoA Dehydrogenase (LCHAD) deficiency. This means that Owen’s body is not able to break down stored fats for energy, which limits his stamina. Having never heard of the disorder, we were naturally curious about Owen’s future. The doctors described what they believed would be Owen’s challenges, including that he would never be able to play sports and that it was a miracle he was even alive.
This is why our hearts swelled with pride last year as we watched Owen take his place on the baseball field for the first time as part of a special needs baseball team in Mount Juliet. Surrounded by other special needs children with unique abilities, Owen's spirit soared. Since it was Owen’s first game, my husband Tyler helped by being his “buddy,” a term for those who volunteer to assist these special players. Owen’s legs got too tired on his first trip around the bases so he asked Tyler to give him a piggyback ride. The sight of Owen riding on my husband’s back as they headed into home plate, his fist stretched proudly in the air, is an image etched forever in my heart.
In that moment, my family was able to experience the transformative power of a supportive community and the immeasurable joy that comes from inclusive play. What doctors saw as an impossibility became an opportunity for new connections. This experience caused us to ask ourselves if it was possible to bring this sense of belonging closer to our own community in Franklin. We knew that many children like Owen longed for the opportunity to participate in organized sports, to be part of a team, and to forge lifelong friendships.
As we shared our vision of establishing a special needs baseball league in our community, the Franklin Baseball Club embraced the idea wholeheartedly and Franklin Challengers was born. In our inaugural season, we are excited to welcome boys and girls between the ages of five and 18 to join our co-ed league where every child, regardless of their abilities, can experience the transformative power of sports.
There are no practices and our games will be held at Jim Warren Park on Saturdays at 10 a.m. and we do not keep score. All equipment and uniforms will be provided for the kids at no charge to the families. This league is volunteer run. The fields can accommodate wheelchairs, walkers, strollers, you name it! As long as the child has a physical or intellectual disability that keeps them from playing on an able-bodied team, there is a place for them on the Franklin Challengers. Our hope is that this opportunity can provide a place where families can feel part of a community, just like we did.
To make this vision a reality, and to keep this program free for families, we are in need of volunteers, baseball equipment donations, and financial donations.
Facebook link: https://www.facebook.com/franklinchallengersTN
Instagram link: https://www.instagram.com/franklinchallengers
Registration link: FranklinBaseballClub.com