East Williamson County Challenger league

25 Dec
Please take the time and read the beautiful article that was written about our Special Needs kids last week.
 We are really excited about bringing the first and only special needs ability baseball field to Williamson County!
 I just wanted to let you know that we have over 20 special needs children signed up for Basketball so far!
 We have paid insurance for up to 100 children to play for free as well as rent for the Gym.
Our first day is January 7th, 2012 10:00am-12:00pm and we will be accepting children all throughout the year since insurance now covers all sports during the year! You can go the Hutto ISD’s web page for the address of Ray Elementary and directions.
 I hope you have a safe and wonderful Christmas as well as New Year and see you soon!
 John S. Lorek   512-212-1259   www.huttochallenger.webs.com

East Williamson County Challenger league

It has been a big year for the East Williamson County Challenger league. The special needs athletes have been honored at the Dell Diamond (pictured), visited by the Texas Stars and are now on the verge of having a playing field in Taylor.

Posted: Wednesday, December 21, 2011 1:00 am

Meeting the challenge by Mike Eddleman Taylor Daily Press

Challenger league one step closer to field

Seeing smiles on the faces of special needs children and making sure they have the same opportunities to enjoy sports as any other child has led a group of area parents, led by John Lorek, to push for the construction of a special needs ability field in Eastern Williamson County.

 “This is an opportunity to reach people who are underserved,” said Assistant City Manager Jeff Straub.  “It is really neat that these special needs kids will be able to play alongside other family members that are not special needs. It really expands the use of the park for us.

“It is exciting that the Taylor community can be home to an effort like that. We hope they will be able to come up with the funding,” Straub said.

For Lorek, the news means East Williamson County Challenger League is one step closer to meeting the needs of these children, something that is also very personal to him.

“Everything started with early childhood intervention when I lived in Round Rock,” he said. “I have two special needs children and with early childhood intervention they were great at teaching us how to include our kids in daily activities to help these children be productive members of society.”

“It is important because I want my kids to enjoy any every sport they possibly can. It’s not fair for them to have to sit on the couch and watch a baseball game. We are big on getting our kids out there to enjoy life and participate.”

Challenger offers baseball, kickball and basketball free of charge to area special needs children and has been using area ball fields, but Lorek said having its own field will make a huge difference.

“These kids are not greedy, they take what they can get for a place to play, but playing on a dirt field is difficult,” he said. “They need a disability field. You can see the limitations, you can see the parents suffering pushing wheelchairs and we’ve almost had three or four accidents.”

It looks like any other youth league field and is similar in size, but the synthetic surface makes it safer for children and family members.

“This looks like a real field, but it is synthetic turf,” Lorek said. “You can still use wheelchairs on it, it is safe if a kid falls. We will just feel better with this field.”

In addition to the safety issues, Lorek said a special needs child’s comfort with a regular place to play is critical.

“When you get a new kid in the group it takes them a little while to gel,” he said. “Usually it takes 20 to 30 minutes then they are out there going crazy. Once that kid gets out there and plays they know they have a place that’s safe, where they are not an outcast and they feel they are part of a group. This field needs to be called home for these kids.”

This field of dreams, as Lorek refers to it, is intended to be a place for everyone, child and parents alike, to just have fun.

“We’re trying to let the parents hang all their troubles on the tree, come to the field and just have fun,” he said.

The experience in the sports world is also showing results in other parts of the children’s lives, with improved behavior and more focus in school.

“All we’re doing is giving parents the tools and saying ‘if we can do this with sports we can do this with after school activities, we can get our kids involved in school newspaper and other things’,” he said. “We’ve already seen benefits in the classroom. Through sports these kids are learning sportsmanship, honesty, teamwork, patience.”

With support and guidance from the Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation, planning and funding for the project is falling into place as grants are secured.

The Challenger League and Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation are working together to secure all the necessary funding for the project estimated at $350,000. Once funding is secured, the Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation will work with contractors to oversee construction of the field.

While Lorek believes that grants, from both government and industry, will cover most all the cost of the project, he is encouraging the community to show its support with local fundraising as well.

“I would like to issue a personal challenge to Eastern Williamson County to show their support of this project,” he said. “Everybody knows somebody who has a special needs child. We want to show we can do this with help from our community. We can all do things to help raise funds.”

The overall goal is to raise $500,000 so an inclusion park can be built adjacent to the field as well, which when constructed will sit just northwest of the softball fields at the park, near the playscape and youth football field.

The City of Taylor has pledged the land and given the Challenger League 12 months to secure funding for the project. Taylor will also maintain the field in terms of general upkeep, but while Lorek does not want to look past this project too much, he sees a completed field leading to even greater things for the Challenger League as well as new opportunities for today’s special needs children as the organization grows and evolves.

“We’re going to be the first special needs youth sports organization that’s going to be run by handicapped kids in 10 years. That is our whole mission is to turn this over to the kids. Just because a child is blind doesn’t mean his brain doesn’t work and just because someone is mentally slow, they can have the drive and the heart.”

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