This year marked the third season of Challenger Baseball, an adaptive sport for individuals with special needs.
What began as just an idea from Moorestown resident Ken Catanella has grown into a very successful program for the Rec Department. The Catanella’s have been instrumental in growing special needs programming by underwriting Challenger baseball and an additional afterschool program for middle school children.
Each Challenger Baseball season ends with a celebratory pizza lunch. This year it was well attended by friends, family, players, volunteer “buddies” and Mayor Nicole Gillespie. Theresa Miller, Director of the Parks & Recreation Department and Ken Catanella awarded each player a personalized trophy and team photo.
Catanella has not only been the driving force of the program but also the designated pitcher. Catanella acknowledged the families at the beginning saying, “You are heroes for what you do, don’t think I don’t notice it, but I do every time I see you including today.”
Larry Dunne, one of the coaches and who has a son in the program said, “The reality is that my son is 13 and there’s not a lot of organized sports he can do. So, we have a structured program like this, and it gives kids an opportunity to get out and participate in a sport. Otherwise, they’d probably be sitting at home in front of a computer. Baseball is ancillary, it’s the environment and the opportunity for connections to be made.”
The camaraderie amongst the kids, the families and the volunteers is palpable. Volunteer buddies help with batting, base running and fielding.
Dunne explains, “Every week we would have twice as many buddies as players. That’s a really neat part of it. It says something about the community when a teenager is willing to come out and spend an hour and a half on a Saturday.” Case in point, one of the buddies said to Theresa Miller it was one of the best things he’s ever done.
The Rec Department will have its annual Special Needs Holiday Party on Dec. 12 from 1 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. at the Church Street Rec Center. There will be pizza and beverages (donated by Quaker Wealth Management), a DJ (sponsored by Posternock Apell PC) and of course Santa. This is a free event but please register for planning purposes at www.moorestownrec.com.
By: Amy Filippone, Dept. of Parks & Recreation