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 > Little League Online > Media > Little League News Archive > 2010 > September - December > Fields of Green: The YMCA of Greater Kansas City, Little League Challenger Division Create Environment of Pride, Success

Fields of Green: The YMCA of Greater Kansas City, Little League Challenger Division Create Environment of Pride, Success

Fields of Green: The YMCA of Greater Kansas City, Little League Challenger Division Create Environment of Pride, Success

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For years, the YMCA of Greater Kansas City, Mo., has offered a variety of athletic programs to the children in neighborhoods throughout the Midwestern city. Over the past four years, through a partnership with Little League Baseball and Softball’s Challenger Division, the area’s partnering YMCAs have developed a baseball program for hundreds of children and volunteers that has exceeded expectations, both on the field and off.

Last month, The YMCA of Greater Kansas City dedicated its new Fred and Shirley Pryor YMCA Challenger Sports Complex.

“It was a huge celebration and a very special day for everyone,” Michelle Ford, Senior Vice President of Adaptive Programs for the YMCA of Greater Kansas City, said. “The program would not exist without the ‘buddies.’ We have more than 350 buddies throughout the program. It’s a big family, that’s what it is.”

Summing up the day, Ms. Ford highlighted part of a conversation she had with a current Challenger Division player. “Noah, who’s 10 and a member of the Challenger program since 2007, had never been able to get into the dugout before because of his disability and the physical barriers at the previous fields. He asked: ‘Am I really going to be able to get into dugout?’ He was thrilled when I told him, ‘Yes!’ To see his excitement was a great feeling.”

Construction and development of the Challenger field and its surrounding amenities have taken four years to complete.

“This is the first complex of its kind in the United States,” Ms. Ford said. “The project’s first phase includes the Mark Teahen Challenger Baseball Field with synthetic rubber turf and the American Family Insurance Field for football and soccer with synthetic grass. The second phase will include two additional baseball fields with synthetic grass, the Trent Green Field for football and soccer with synthetic rubber turf, a pavilion with restrooms, a concession stand, and an all-accessible playground with ramps.”

With the inclusion of Little League Baseball and the Challenger Division into the Greater YMCA of Kansas City sports programs, the organization’s facility, located in the city’s northern section, has established an expanded reach that is drawing children and adults from smaller communities within an hour’s drive.

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Challenger Division players and volunteers with the YMCA of Greater Kansas City (Mo.) enjoy the first game on a the newly-dedicated Fred and Shirley Pryor YMCA Challenger Sports Complex. The YMCA of Greater Kansas City chartered a Little League Challenger Division in 2006, along with several other divisions of Little League Baseball. In its first year, 35 children with physical and mental disabilities played on four teams. During the 2010 season, the total number of Challenger Division teams had expanded to 14. Overall, there are more than 1,200 Little Leaguers playing in the YMCA of Greater Kansas City Little League program.

In 2006, the League Development Department at Little League International in South Williamsport, Pa., worked with the YMCA of Greater Kansas City to provide the structure to its youth baseball program. During that time, the baseball program has grown, as the children have enjoyed the opportunity to be Little Leaguers.

“In the beginning, being tied to Little League helped us establish our identity with the Challenger Division,” Ms. Ford said. “We’ve always done adaptive programs, and we recognized there was a need in our communities for a program like what Little League offered.”

From its first year of affiliation with the Little League program, the YMCA of Greater Kansas City chartered baseball teams that served all of its members, including those with special needs. However, facilities were limited, and immediately fundraising efforts commenced with the goal being to develop usable green space into fields for all YMCA participants.

The YMCA of Greater Kansas City chartered all divisions of Little League Baseball, and the Challenger Division. In the first year, more than 700 children (ages 5-16) participated in the Little League program with 35 Challenger Division players taking part on four teams.

By 2010, the YMCA of Greater Kansas City Little League program had grown to 14 Challenger teams. There are more than 1,200 participants overall in the Little League program - Tee Ball through Big League Baseball divisions.

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