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YMCA of Greater Kansas City Breaks Ground for Challenger Division Field

WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. (Nov. 20, 2006) – The YMCA of Greater Kansas City, Mo., announced earlier this year that the 2006 season would be its first time chartering teams with Little League Baseball and Softball. That inaugural season was a profound success, and the program has moved quickly to expand, highlighted by the groundbreaking for a Challenger Division field as part of a multi-sport complex.

“There is such a need,” Michelle Ford, vice president of sports development for YMCA of Greater Kansas City, said. “There are approximately 20,000 children with special needs in the Kansas City area. Our initiative to provide more outlets for disabled children started with Little League, and has now opened the door for us to provide many sports to children with different types of disabilities.”

This YMCA affiliation marked the first time that the Little League program has established chartered leagues in Kansas City, and laid the foundation for growth and expansion of the program under the auspices of the YMCA.

In its first year of Little League affiliation, Kansas City was served by three separate Little League programs - The Paul Henson YMCA in Prairie Village, Kan.; The Red Bridge YMCA on the South side of the city; and the Clay-Platte, Independence, Blue Springs and Richard C. Green YMCAs which combined to form the East YMCA Little League.

“Our goal is to have three Challenger fields in three to five years,” Ms. Ford said. “We want to surround the whole community, so people aren’t traveling an hour or better to play on a Challenger Division field.”

Support for the Little League Challenger Division has come in many forms and from a variety of sources.

Dan Glass, president of the Kansas City Royals, and his wife, Penny, in conjunction with Royals Charities; Trent Green, quarterback for the NFL’s Kansas City Chiefs, and his wife, Julie, through the Trent Green Family Foundation; philanthropists Fred and Shirley Pryor, and the Platte County (Mo.) government have all been significant contributors and supporters.

The William Jewell College Pryor Leadership Legacy Class (2005) first developed the idea of building a Challenger field in the Kansas City area.

“The field and the entire complex will help the community,” Ms. Ford said. “We have gotten the word out and now volunteers, donors and participants have been on the rise. For 2007, we have set a goal to double, and hopefully triple, our numbers - I think we can easily do that.”

The Challenger field project is expected to be completed later in 2007, in time to have a “fall ball” season. The seven-plus acre complex will also have amenities for other mentally or physically disabled children wishing to play a variety of sports.

“There has been an outpouring of generosity and things have been happening fast,” Ms. Ford said. “We have had great support from the media. The Kansas City Star (newspaper) has been great, and Metro Sports (channel) has written stories to promote the program and will be a sponsor of the Challenger Division in 2007.”

Ms. Ford said the YMCA staff has provided promotional information to schools throughout the Kansas City area and different local organizations have become involved. Several fundraising events will be held throughout 2007, including a baseball clinic hosted by William Jewel College (Jan. 13-14) and conducted by Philadelphia Phillies scout Jerry Lafferty, a Kansas City resident.

“Parents here are excited, and people want to get involved with Little League,” Ms. Ford said. “Thanks to Dan Velte (Little League International’s director of league development) and Jim Ferguson (Challenger Division director) it was an easy decision to charter with Little League because of their expertise. The Challenger Division is about kids helping kids and our volunteers want to help them make a difference in their community.”

More information on the Little League programs operated by the YMCA of Kansas City can be found by logging on to: www.ymca-kc.org.

To view a Map of the New Complex, Click Here.