Vote for a deserving program

Published 8:32 pm Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The folks at Bennett’s Creek Little League make an unusual and surprising promise regarding their youth baseball program: “We turn nobody away. Whether you’re healthy or not healthy or you’ve got [a] disability or not, it doesn’t matter. We treat all the kids the same.”

Those are the words of BCLL Commissioner Frank Ittel. And the league backs up its commissioner’s words by making Challenger Field available and accessible to kids with all manner of disabilities. Volunteers have worked and raised money to make dugouts at the field wheelchair-accessible, and they spend time to make sure that disabled youth have a chance to participate in a baseball program and enjoy being with other kids.

Tyler Fago was one of those whose lives were enriched by the compassion and consideration of the BCLL volunteers and the field they built. Fago played on Challenger Field, even though, in the words of his father, he was “confined to a wheelchair, he was blind, [he had] seizure disorders, all kinds of different disabilities.” For Tyler, who died at the age of 10, Bennett’s Creek Little League’s Challenger Division gave him an opportunity to interact with other people. More than 1,200 people, including many of the friends he had made at Challenger Field, attended his funeral.

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But Challenger Field, which BCLL plans to dedicate to Tyler’s memory, needs help. Low spots cause water to pool on the infield. Paved and leveled surfaces are needed to allow for easy field access, and the dugouts still need further work to allow more room for wheelchairs inside. Refurbished bleachers and a permanent restroom facility that meets the needs of the disabled children are also on the list.

The league has entered a Facebook contest presented by the Norfolk Tides baseball organization that promises to commit Tides groundskeepers and front-office staff to upgrade three area youth baseball fields. Facebook users can vote for one of the 20 participating Little Leagues by visiting www.facebook.com/norfolktides, clicking on the “Youth Baseball Makeover” link and then finding the photo of the Bennett’s Creek field and clicking “Like” on that photo (not on the album).

Voting ends at 4 p.m. Friday, and the BCLL field was in fifth place as of 4:30 p.m. Wednesday. It’s easy to help, and the cause could hardly be more deserving. Please vote.