At Mason’s Makino Park, site of the inclusive Common Ground playground, plans are moving forward to add three accessible baseball fields for the young athletes of the Mason Youth Organization (MYO) Challenger League.
“As a parent of a special needs child, I am excited about these fields because they will be their special place, built with them in mind and for their needs, so they won’t have to struggle as much,” remarks Challenger League board member, Jen Christmas.
Jen’s son Zach has been part of the Challenger League for five years. He has multiple diagnoses including autism, congenital malformations and hypertonia (low muscle tone). Jen explains, “It’s just not possible for him to play in a typical league. He joined the Challenger League and loves it, because he can be like his peers and play a sport. It’s exciting for him to go to school and talk about how he plays baseball.”
Formed in 2012, the MYO Challenger League is open to males and females, ages 5-22. Currently, 100 athletes with special needs participate, coming from Mason and surrounding communities.
Jen reflects, “The league is wonderful. All kids are welcome. As a parent, the best part of the league is hanging out in the stands, talking to other parents and cheering on our kids. For that hour on a Saturday afternoon you feel like a typical parent!”
Plans for the three fields include two with an artificial turf that resembles a natural field and one with a rubberized surface to accommodate wheelchairs and other mobility devices. All fields will remove barriers found on typical fields, ensuring accessible dugouts, bleachers, restrooms and pathways from parking lots.
Fundraising for the fields recently received a huge boost when the League was awarded a $25,000 State Farm Neighborhood Assist grant. The Challenger League was one of 40 national recipients who won by tallying the most community votes.
Susan Murdock, MYO Challenger Board Co-President remarks, “We are so thankful to the community of Mason and beyond for voting for us and very grateful for the support of the community for our program. We depend on volunteers and sponsors and the community always comes out to help.”
Susan continues, “Moving forward we would love people and companies to support us financially. We also always need volunteers, like our baseball buddies, who help our younger players succeed on the field.”
These are fields of possibilities, providing opportunities for young aspiring athletes with special needs to compete and achieve. Jen and Susan agree, “The Challenger League and the new baseball fields mean everyone has a place to play.”
To donate: MasonParksFoundation.org
To volunteer: MasonYouth.org
“As a parent of a special needs child, I am excited about these fields because they will be their special place, built with them in mind and for their needs.” —Jen Christmas