2014 Little League® Good Sport Award Winner Brings the Little League Challenger Division® to His Hometown
Cole Daniels, 2014 Little League® Good Sport Award recipient, is an ambitious 13-year-old with big dreams and an even bigger heart. Cole was recognized at the awards breakfast during the 2014 Little League Baseball® World Series for his superior qualities of sportsmanship and a desire to excel, both on and off the field.
During the breakfast, Cole learned of Little League Challenger Division® and immediately knew he wanted to be involved with the program. A few days later, Cole watched the Little League Challenger Division Exhibition Game while he was in Williamsport and knew he had to get involved.
“My favorite part of watching the Challenger game was watching the kids smile,” said Cole. “It was hard not to cry seeing these kids so excited to do something that we take for granted.”
Seeing the players in action inspired him to bring the program to his town of Grays Harbor, Wash.
“Cole has a heart for this [program],” said Kellie Daniels, Cole’s mother.
At home, Cole volunteers his time to children with physical and developmental challenges, and he knew the Challenger Division would be a perfect fit for his community.
“Our goal is to change people’s hearts, if we can do that through baseball, we can change lives,” said Mrs. Daniels.
At the breakfast, Cole met fellow award recipient Joni Fichter. Joni received the 2014 Little League Challenger Division Award. In 2004, she was the driving force behind the formation of a Challenger Division in her home of Houston, Texas. Today, she not only continues to volunteer with the Challenger Division, but has strengthened her involvement, helping other leagues launch programs within their leagues and districts. Since the awards breakfast last August, Joni has kept in touch with the Daniels family and has provided information and support to them, as they prepare for their inaugural season.
To form the Little League Challenger Division in Grays Harbor, two local Little Leagues have teamed up: Aberdeen Little League and Montesano Little League, where Cole plays. The Boards of both leagues unanimously voted to approve the team and work together to make the presence of a Challenger Division in Grays Harbor a reality.
Cole and his mother are currently working with the community to educate them and generate interest for the upcoming season. Their goal is to have 16 to18 players signed up for the season, but even if they end up with less, they still plan to play. Mrs. Daniels says there is a learning curve to managing the responsibilities of implementing a new Challenger program, but she is thinking how this will impact the community in the long term.
From experience, Joni can say that it has had a long term impact on her family, her community, and herself.
“When we first started the Little League Challenger Division in Houston, we all thought we were going to change these kids’ lives,” said Joni. “Soon after the season began, we realized they [players] changed our lives even more.”
Cole’s time with Joni in Williamsport this summer inspired the Daniels family to go above and beyond the call of duty to teach love, compassion, and acceptance to children and parents alike in the town of Grays Harbor.
“My goal is to come home someday from college to see how the program has grown. I want this to be something that lasts forever in my community,” said Cole.
Cole and Joni, two extraordinary award winners, were brought together because of these awards and the passion they have for Little League®. Since winning this award, Cole has been exposed to more of the opportunities Little League® has to offer because of his determination and willingness to do more for his community. Little League® gives out several awards each year in addition to the awards Cole and Joni received, including: Volunteer of the Year Award, Mom of the Year, and Urban Initiative Volunteer of the Year Award. If you know of a deserving Little Leaguer® or volunteer, go to LittleLeague.org for more information.