Challenger baseball provides opportunities to exercise for special needs children who are at a high risk for obesity-related conditions like diabetes, high cholesterol, and more.
Seventeen years ago, doTERRA Wellness Advocate Carma Brown started the Little League Challenger Division, to give children and teenagers with special needs a chance to play baseball with their peers. Carma was motivated to start the organization because of her special needs brother, Darren. Shortly after starting the Challenger league, Carma met Kelli Hamilton, a mother of a special needs child. Together, these two friends have worked together to run the Challenger baseball league in the Grand Junction, Colo. area since 1998.
While the league started with 10 players and two teams, it now consists of 72 players on eight teams. All of the coaches and “buddies” who help the special needs players are volunteers—many of whom are high school, junior college, and college athletes.
The league’s participants range from ages eight to 21, and face a variety of disabilities and physical challenges including cerebral palsy, autism, Down syndrome, Asperger’s, and several other medical conditions. For children with mental and physical disabilities, recreational activities like sports can be key in keeping them active and healthy.
According to a publication by the University of Illinois, children who have disabilities are at a higher risk for health issues related to obesity. When children’s physical activity is restricted because of special needs, it can contribute to obesity, and conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol.1 For any individual with or without special needs, a lack of exercise is a large contributing factor for weight gain and diseases like type 2 diabetes.2
Parents of children with disabilities must often find creative ways to get their children active, in order to prevent against obesity, diabetes, high cholesterol, and other health problems. Programs like the Challenger baseball league provide a perfect outlet for children and teens who otherwise wouldn’t be able to participate in organized sports.
Along with their work as doTERRA Wellness Advocates, Carma and Kelli make time to keep the Challenger league running because they know how important it is to the children who participate. Kelli and Carma’s motivation for their volunteer work can be summed up by the league’s motto, a quote by Lou Gehrig that says, “There is no room in baseball for discrimination. It is our national pastime and a game for all.”