Thomas Taycher Is Little League’s 2011 Challenger Award Winner
Thomas Taycher and his family have been involved with programs for people, mostly children, with disabilities for many years. Their participation with disability related programs led to the call that began Mr. Taycher’s long association with Little League’s Challenger Division.
The Green Bay, Wis., native relocated to Las Vegas in 1979. One day his wife, Karen, came home from a meeting she had just attended and shared the agenda item with him – Little League District Administrator Robert Fleming wanted to start a Challenger program in the district and was looking for somebody to spearhead the effort.
That’s the only nudge Mr. Taycher needed. Now, more than 20 years later, he is still keeping smiles on the faces of the boys and girls with intellectual, developmental and physical challenges in the area as Director of the Challenger Little League of Southern Nevada.
For his many years of volunteer work with the program, Mr. Taycher has been selected as the recipient of Little League’s 2011 Challenger Award.
Started in 1989, the Challenger Division serves more than 30,000 children worldwide, ages four to 18. The Little League Challenger Award was established in 1998, and annually acknowledges the efforts of an individual who exemplifies the Little League ideal of providing all children an opportunity to play baseball regardless of their ability.
Little League’s Challenger Division was established to give boys and girls developmental and physical challenges the opportunity to enjoy the full benefit of participation in a Little League program structured to their abilities. There are more than 2,000 teams and more than 30,000 players in this division of the Little League organization.
“Mr. Taycher has embraced the Challenger Division and worked diligently to build and maintain the program throughout Southern Nevada,” Stephen D. Keener, President and Chief Executive Officer of Little League Baseball and Softball, said. “His commitment to the children of the Las Vegas area has resulted in a first-class playing facility that allows them to enjoy the game of baseball to its fullest. We are delighted to be able to recognize Mr. Taycher for the sacrifices he has made on behalf of the Challenger program.”
The 27-year veteran of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, where he worked in the county jail as a corrections officer before retiring in 2008, contacted Mr. Fleming a few days after his wife had attended the meeting about starting a Challenger program. Early in 1991, they were able to get the program off the ground with four teams and 40 players. Today, they have seven teams and 105 players with as many as 12 teams and 140 players in the program in previous years.
“I think Robert thought I might be a good fit for something like this,” Mr. Taycher said. “My wife was working for the Nevada Association for the Handicapped at the time, and it seemed like there was a natural connection.”
There also is another connection between Mr. Taycher and the Challenger program that he has first-hand experience with.
His oldest son, Kenny, was born with multiple disabilities in 1984. Through his experience with his son, Mr. Taycher developed an appreciation for what his son and others go through on a day-to-day basis. He felt a Challenger program in the area would improve the quality of life for the children participating.
“When I started working with Robert on the Challenger program, it was my first experience with Little League,” Mr. Taycher said. “I wanted to give back to the community, especially the children with special needs who participate in the Challenger program.
“The best part of what I do, and the only thing I would want in return for my time, is to see the faces of those children on game day,” Mr. Taycher said. “The ability to give them the opportunity to play the game of baseball, and to see the enjoyment that brings, is what keeps me motivated. It also gives the children an environment where everyone is on the same level.”
Kenny was a player in the program and has continued his association as a coach and mentor for the kids in the league. He also assists his father with some of the league planning and day-to-day operations.
Mr. Taycher has played an integral role in the evolution of the playing facility in central Las Vegas, the Justice Myron Leavitt Family Park, going from a place that did not accommodate the needs of the children to one that has dugouts that are approved by the American Disability Association and also has a misting system for the players. A skinned infield allows for easy movement by players in wheelchairs.
“We used to have to lift wheelchairs over fences and the dugouts were not conducive to easy access for the children,” Mr. Taycher said. “Now, we have wide gates that allow for easy wheelchair entrance which leads to a better experience for the players, their parents and our buddies.”
The field was centrally located to allow players from all parts of the district to participate. The program plays its games each Saturday morning to escape the desert heat.
“The success of the Challenger Little League of Southern Nevada is due to the efforts of Tom Taycher,” Mr. Fleming said. “His unselfish dedication and enthusiasm to the program continues to play a pivotal role in its success. He has always put the Challenger children first.”
The Challenger Little League of Southern Nevada program is a district-wide program chartered under the Las Vegas Central Little League.
Mr. Taycher’s wife also has continued her work with children presently serving as the Executive Director of Parents Encouraging Parents (Nevada PEP), a non-profit organization that provides information, services and training for Nevada families of children with disabilities.
Mr. Taycher will be recognized at a breakfast and an on-field ceremony during the 2011 Little League Baseball World Series in South Williamsport, Pa. The 65th World Series will be played Aug. 18-28.