For the last year and a half, a pair of Little League® volunteers have been looking for a way to help children with special needs play baseball in the Orange County area of Virginia, and with the help of a $20,000 grant as part of the Little League Grow the Game initiative, those dreams will soon come true.
Kathy Fulcher, a 15-year Little League volunteer, and her husband, Bobby, have been looking for a solution to getting children with special needs involved in baseball. After finding out about the Little League Challenger Division® two years ago from neighboring Monticello Little League volunteers, C.J. and Bobbie Gross, who had recently moved to East Orange County in the last couple years, the Fulchers immediately got together with the East Orange County Little League (EOCLL) League President, Kalvin Kurtz to begin their research.
Over the course of the next year, the Fulchers and Mr. Kurtz visited neighboring Little Leagues in Culpeper County and Spotsylvania County to learn about how to run the program and then picked up the phone to call Little League International for more details on how to get the program started and how the Grow the Game Grant Program works.
“After talking with Kathy and Kalvin about what they were looking to do for East Orange County Little League, it sounded like a perfect fit for the Little League Grow the Game Grant,” said Sam Ranck, Little League Director of the Challenger Division and League Development Manager. “It’s always exciting to hear about people looking to create opportunities for those children with special needs in their community and by providing EOCLL with this grant, we hope that they will be able to put together a field that offers their players an incredible experience they will never forget.”
Joined together with League President Kalvin Kurtz, the Fulchers applied for the Little League Grow the Game Grant which they were soon approved and awarded $20,000 to help make their field ADA accessible. As part of that process, Mr. Kurtz and Bob Fulcher, who both have backgrounds in commercial building, found a way to create portable dugouts that could be put safely in foul territory on the field within 15 minutes after a game to quickly transition the normal field into a field accessible for those in the Challenger Division. Along with equipment and field construction costs, Mr. Kurtz and the Fulchers also used the grant to help create a seven-foot wide ramp that helps create a more accessible entry to the field from the parking lot.
“We still have a few more things to do and complete, but the major work is complete so that games can be played safely in order to create lasting memories for the newest members of our league,” said Mr. Kurtz. “It is so heartwarming to see our league’s families be able to include their special needs children in our program and we are looking forward to the opportunity to continue to serve our community at new heights.”
For the first time this fall, after months of advertising to local school systems and communities to gather interest, EOCLL will have a Little League Challenger Division for children with physical and/or mental challenges to be able to experience the game of baseball thanks to the hard work of Mr. and Mrs. Fulcher, Mr. Kurtz, and the Grow the Game initiative.
“I am very thankful to Little League International,” said Mrs. Kurtz. “Without the Grow the Game Grant, we would have never been able to put in the pavement from the parking lot to the field to allow players in a wheelchair or walker easier access.”
The league is currently looking for volunteers to help out in the area and asks anyone interested to reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org.