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First Challenger Little League Baseball World Jamboree to be Held in Norfolk, Va.

NORFOLK, Va., (Dec. 16, 2004) – In the first event of its kind, the inaugural Challenger Little League Baseball World Jamboree will be played May 11-14, 2006 at the Azalea Little League Complex in Norfolk, Va., and will be hosted by Virginia District 8. The announcement was made today in Williamsport, Pa., by Steve Keener, president and chief executive officer of Little League Little League Baseball and Softball, and in Norfolk by Mayor Paul Fraim.

The Challenger Division is Little League’s program for mentally and physically disabled children. More than 27,000 children played in the Challenger Division in 2004 on more than 1,800 teams in the U.S., Canada, and several other countries.

Little League’s Virginia State Coordinator and District 8 Administrator, Jake Hardison began the Challenger Tournament and Fun Weekend in 1992 with 16 teams taking part. The event, held each year on Mother’s Day weekend, has enjoyed steady growth. The May 11-14, 2006 event will be the largest of its kind, and feature more than 80 teams from several states.

Hardison said he started working on the concept of a world-wide jamboree more than a year ago. The Little League International Board of Directors approved the re-designation of the event on November 12.

“It will be an honor to welcome and host Challenger players and their families from the United States and around the world to the international jamboree,” said Hardison. “Challenger baseball is such a positive program for children who face severe hardships in their daily lives. As a result of this event, I hope that more disabled children will have the opportunity to participate in such a wonderful program.

“We have a tremendous group of volunteers that will do a great job coordinating games and events. We have some great partners to work with like Mayor Fraim and the City of Norfolk. Together, we want to ‘Welcome the World’ here for the Jamboree to celebrate Challenger Baseball. I am certain it will be a memorable event.”

The designation of the event in 2006 as the Challenger Little League Baseball World Jamboree is expected to draw between 200 and 300 teams.

“Jake Hardison, the other volunteers in Virginia Little League District 8, the City of Norfolk, Norfolk Naval Base and everyone involved have done a terrific job over the years with the Challenger Fun Weekend,” Keener said. “The children and their families that have taken part in the event have a cherished memory because of their hard work and hospitality. We're pleased that the event is being taken to a new level, and we're looking forward to making these memories available to thousands more Challenger Little Leaguers in the future.”

Local Little League programs in every U.S. state and more than 60 other nations will receive invitations to participate in the jamboree. Each team has at least 15 players.

During a news conference in the Norfolk City Council chambers, Mayor Fraim said the city is honored to be selected to host the annual jamboree.

“Norfolk is deeply appreciative to Little League International for selecting our historic city as the site for such a prestigious and worthwhile event,” said Mayor Fraim. “The city is planning to marshal its resources to ensure that the jamboree is a huge success for the players and their families.”

Little League International launched the Challenger Division in 1989 to provide boys and girls with disabilities the opportunity to experience the joy of playing baseball, “America’s game.” Disabled children ages 5-18 are eligible to participate. Challenger baseball features “buddies” who help their partners by acting as guides for blind children or pushing wheel-chair bound children around the base paths. During the past 15 years, Challenger baseball has become little League’s fastest growing division.

The jamboree will include games, tours, picnics and other special events. Packages with complete details will be made available in September 2005.

For additional information, contact Jake Hardison at challenger@va8ll.org.