April Snow couldn’t contain her energy as she crossed home plate.
The Snoqualmie baseball player raised her hands in the air with a massive smile and cheered as spectators did the same on June 15 at the Little League Challenger Division Jamboree at Northshore Athletic Fields in Woodinville.
Brandon Duffy, whose son Aidan also plays on the District 9 squad, ran the bases with Snow and was thrilled to be a part of the action.
“It’s a great atmosphere. It gives the kids a chance to come out and play baseball. It’s something my youngest son loves most, following his older brother around his whole life, so he’s been around the game,” Brandon said after the morning games, which took place on six fields at the 29th annual jamboree. “The competition level gets a little too high in the Little Leagues, so Challenger gives them an opportunity to compete and have fun and just be able to play the game.”
Founded in 1989 in Texas, Connecticut and few other states, Bev and Gary Newsome brought the Challenger program to Washington state a year later. According to the Little League website, the adaptive baseball program is designed for individuals — ages 4 to 18 (or up to 22 if the player is still enrolled in school) — with physical and intellectual challenges.
Aidan said that he enjoys hitting, running the bases and sliding. During the course of the jamboree on the different fields, some participants played in wheelchairs, some of them hit off the pitcher or the tee and there were parents, coaches and other volunteers along with FCA Baseball players on the fields to lend a hand.
Team Snoqualmie and 11 other squads from throughout the region descended on the Woodinville fields for two rounds of games and a barbecue. The Mariner Moose even put in an appearance to the delight of everyone in attendance.
Bev, the assistant district administrator for the Challenger Division from District 8, said the best part of being involved is “just coming out here and seeing the smiles on these kids’ faces that they are so appreciative of this program. And this program is the best — the best in sports, believe me.”
Gary, who passed away in 2009, was the district administrator for 26 years and Bev added that her husband made her promise to continue with the Challenger program since they started it in Washington.
It’s a special program for Bev and she has bonded with the kids over the years.
“They absolutely just love it and it just makes a difference in their lives, makes a difference in everybody’s life, even the parents, their brothers, their sisters,” said Bev, who received the Volunteer of the Year Award for the Challenger program last year in Williamsport, Pennsylvania.
Sam Ranck, director of the Challenger Division for Little League International, praised the volunteers and community for being a vital part of the experience along with the administrators, players and coaches.
He flew in from Williamsport to speak at the jamboree and noted before the games began that Little League’s core mission is “to give every boy and girl an opportunity to play baseball and softball, to build character and life lessons that come through that participation.”