Nothing fills our hearts with more joy than seeing kids live out their best lives possible!
This is why when Jess Morin approach us to help her bring a Bambino Buddy-Ball program to Auburn Suburban Baseball and Softball - we were onboard before she could even finish her sentence (or maybe it was a text message).
Jess, Ashley Stevens and their team of dedicated volunteers pooled their energy together to get a T-ball league chartered for children and teens, ages 5-19 who are either physically and or mentally challenged, to play America's favorite pastime.
This is done by having each participating athlete paired with a volunteer to help perform the fundamentals of the game. We have watched a lot of baseball in our days but this was the only game that I have ever seen Stephanie teared up (not once but) three times before the first ball was even hit.
"I can't believe I actually get to hold a bat," said one of the athletes to his buddy as they walked by us. It was enough to warm the coldest of hearts.
This league is not a new concept, in fact it is starting to grow more and more around the nation. Before programs like this existed, children and teens with special needs were left on the sideline and that in part is why Bambino Buddy-Ball was created. Inclusion is important in this circle and from what we witnessed at this game - everyone who wanted to be involved - was involved! Honestly, we were not sure who was having more fun; the athletes, the volunteers or the cheering and tearing parents on the sideline that never thought their children would be able to take part in a sport like this. Hits, runs and hugs were seen throughout the entire game!
I wish we knew and could list all the volunteers that we saw running around to make this day happen. So many Auburn Suburban athletes are involved in this program in addition to the multiple coaches and parents. Jess said many of the ASBB board of directors were vital in making this become a reality. President Travis Bashaw, Vice President Fritz Kunas and Treasurer Mark Porter all had a huge hand in supporting this cause.
Now we know that there are some unsung heroes that we are leaving out ~ and that is not intentional but basically we don't know them all! We tip our hats to all of them (and you know who you are) for sharing your time to make this opportunity happen for these athletes. Most of these volunteers are already at these fields three to four times a week for practices and scheduled games and now they are even donating their Sundays this summer to make this league come true!
There was so much love and energy in the air, despite all the different levels of skill and understanding of the sport. Even though there were two teams playing it was clear that there was no opposition on the field and everyone walked away feeling energized.
Pictured above is one of my new favorite people on the planet. His name is Anthony and he wears #4 for Dairy Queen. This young man is very passionate about the game and puts his heart and soul into every at bat - even pointing and calling for a homerun. It was the first time veteran sports announcer and volunteer Steven Wallace had ever seen a five-run grand slam to end the inning! Watching Anthony round the bases and then point to Steven up in the press box was absolutely priceless. Below are our captures of that series of events.
This outing for us was a fun and heartwarming - but we have to assume it is so much more to these athletes! Even when in the dugout, waiting their turn, the athletes were all so captivated with what was happening on the field. To get a closer look at this, I snuck my way into our team's dugout for a few candids.
Stephanie and I are so proud to be a part of this movement and we look forward to seeing this program grow from two teams to four then more! (Hey that rhymed).
To all of those that are part of this action I hope you are proud! If you want to learn how you can help this program evolve or perhaps get an athlete or buddy involved in it, reach out to Jess @ firstname.lastname@example.org. If you want to know more about Bambino Buddy-Ball click here.
Lastly thank you to volunteers like Jess and possibly the youngest Buddy-Ball volunteer Miss Adalyn Rose (Jess's youngest daughter) for being so amazing!