Marilyn Wittstock Is 2009 Little League Challenger Award Winner
Marilyn Wittstock of Washington Township, Mich., has volunteered in the Clinton Valley Little League and Michigan District 6 for more than 20 years. During the past three years, she raised more than $140,000 through donations and fundraising events in support of the Michigan District 6 Challenger Division to build a playing field specifically designed for disabled children.
Mrs. Wittstock will be recognized for her efforts on behalf of physically and mentally disabled children with receipt of the 2009 Challenger Award during the 63rd Little League Baseball World Series in Williamsport, Pa.
“She is a mom to all the special needs kids in our district,” Ronald DeCoopman, Michigan District 6 Administrator, said. “The most amazing thing is she never had a special needs child of her own. That impresses the heck out of me, and I have a special needs child … She’s a phenomenal lady.”
Little League volunteers throughout Michigan appreciate Mrs. Wittstock’s efforts on behalf of the Challenger Division. The Detroit News also recognized that same commitment by honoring her as one of 10 Michiganians of the Year this past May.
Norm Hott Field, home field for the Michigan District 6 Challenger Division, is located in Clinton Township’s Neil Reid Park and was named for the late grandfather of Mandi Casey, wife of former Detroit Tiger Sean Casey. The Caseys contributed $10,000 to the field construction project, as did the Detroit Tiger Foundation. The field which includes six-foot wide, rubberized base paths and oversized dugouts was uniquely designed by architect Mark McBride of Royal Oak, Mich.
“When Marilyn started the district’s Challenger Division in 1994 she was also the Clinton Valley Little League President,” Mr. DeCoopman said. “When I became District Administrator in 2001, she had already grown Challenger into a full-blown district program, so I appointed her Assistant District Administrator for the Challenger Division.”
“The field project came about because there was not a suitable field for the Challenger players anywhere in the district,” Mr. DeCoopman said. “My role was to give her all the support I could, and the other leagues did the same. She raised all the money and secured the land for the field which opened in August 2008.”
The Michigan District 6 Challenger Division now charters 12 teams, with at least one team from each of its 10 leagues. Currently the district-wide program is servicing nearly 150 special needs children.
Started in 1989, the Challenger Division services more than 30,000 children worldwide, ages five to 18. The Little League Challenger Award was established in 1998 and annually acknowledges the efforts of a certain individual who exemplifies the Little League ideal of providing all youngsters an opportunity to play baseball regardless of their ability.
Little League Baseball and Softball is the world’s largest organized youth sports program, with nearly 2.6 million players and one million adult volunteers in every U.S. state and scores of other countries.