In the fall of 2009, WMLL entered into uncharted waters when it began a Challenger Division as part of its Fall Ball Little League program. The Challenger Division accommodates children with disabilities and has been a part of Little League Baseball since the 1980’s. The challenge for WMLL was finding field time for this new league. But with the advent of the Fall Ball program, field time became available for the addition of Challenger games each week and a new league was born.
A key part of the program, in addition to our great and spirited Challenger players, is the “buddy” system. Every Challenger player gets a buddy (usually a regular season WMLL player) to assist them as needed during the game. One of these buddies during our inaugural 2009 season was Danny Zimmerman, who was paired with player Katy Goldschmidt. Recently, we received an email from Danny’s mom:
“My son, Danny, was a volunteer last fall for the Challenger League and formed a lasting friendship with the young girl with whom he was paired, Katy Goldschmidt. In fact, he enjoyed the experience so much that he is now considering majoring in Special Education in college. The reason I’m writing is to inquire whether Danny will be able to participate as a volunteer again this fall… If so, we were wondering if there are any opportunities for Danny to take on a more active role in the program. For example, perhaps he could help train the 2010 buddy volunteers or something along those lines. Please let us know if there is some way that he might be of assistance to you as you develop the program.”
WOW… What a great email. We speak quite often about the role sports play in forming lifetime memories, friendships and teaching life lessons. To think that this small experience as a West Madison Little League Challenger buddy could have such an impact on this young man’s life is awesome. That he wants to give back to the program and our Challenger kids is even more awesome. That he is thinking about making special education his career is simply inspiring.
Way to go Danny; we’re really proud of you. And to Katy too, for having such great enthusiasm and courage. And thanks to all the other Challenger buddies who volunteered their time and talents in 2009 to make our inaugural season such a great success. We hope to see you all back for Challenger League each September… and hopefully with double the number of players. SPREAD THE WORD!