CENTRAL — A baseball league designed around children with exceptionalities began as an idea, but the league wrapped up its inaugural season with an awards ceremony on May 22.
The Central Area Youth League (CAYL), with the help of parents, constructed the Central Inclusive League.
The league included those ages 4 to 21 with developmental or physical disabilities. The league’s goal was to provide the children with a safe and fun experience and allow them to play baseball in an inclusive environment.
A Facebook group, SpedTacular Kids of Central, is a parent-created group that helps connect children with exceptionalities. The Facebook group members also helped develop the idea to start the league.
Caitlyn Robinson, one of the organizers, said the league evolved over the eight-week season. CAYL informed her that the league is “here to stay.”
“If we didn’t like something one week, we changed it for the next week,” she said. “It kind of evolved naturally over the eight weeks. What we found was that each week we had more and more people reaching out to either sponsor or to volunteer. It was so successful there were teams that were asking to come in that they would fill the stands and cheer the kids on because there were too many people on the field.”
Robinson said she initially wanted to start the league to create an opportunity for her kid that wasn’t available in the area. She said it began as a way for her son to play ball with his peers in the community, but the league has become much more than that and more than the game of baseball.
“We created a space specifically for these kids,” she said. “It was more than just a game. It was about children learning how to connect with others. Even if they weren’t playing the actual baseball game, they were making friendships and connections that helped them in life.”
Robinson said they celebrated each child who participated in the league at the awards ceremony. There were 61 players and 83 buddy volunteers.
“The community came together,” she stated. “The families got to really enjoy celebrating their child, and all the children walked away with something to really feel accomplished for. I’ve had parents say ‘You know, I’ve never felt like my child was fully included until now.’ With that being said, we definitely did what we started to do, and will continue to do in the future.”