Shnay: Special needs children set to play ball
By Jerry Shnay Citizen Journalistfirstname.lastname@example.org June 7, 2012 12:42PM
Updated: July 11, 2012 6:05AM
We grew up with baseball heroes, those remarkable people with extraordinary athletic skills whose feats shaped the next day’s headlines. They seemed larger than life. Perhaps when we hailed them, we lived in their reflected glory.
Their achievements made us feel better.
Later one could tell others about their hitting, throwing or catching the baseball and of how accomplished they were. That was why we applauded these gods of the diamond.
This Sunday we can cheer for some just as worthy heroes as Park Forest Baseball and the South Suburban Special Recreation Association hold a morning baseball clinic and an afternoon mini-tournament in Central Park for special needs children ages 4 to 14.
These are children, said SSSRA officials, “who have varying degrees of physical disabilities, mental handicaps, learning disabilities, emotional difficulties, hearing or visual impairments, and developmental delays.”
It was not long ago when many of these youths would be shoved into back rooms of our houses or sequestered into the narrow closets of our minds, out of the way and out of our thoughts.
Alan Joens of Park Forest Baseball is working with the SSSRA to introduce baseball to these athletes. As a field director for the national Pony Baseball program, Joens has witnessed the success of that organization’s Champions Division for special needs athletes, which includes a game played on the same field in which the Major League All-Star game is played.
“This is the first year we’ve tried to pull it together here,” Joens said. “We want to give these kids everything from hot dogs to medallions. We’re trying to raise money to do it right, and whatever money is left will go to SSSRA.”
So when you see the light in their faces this Sunday, please remember that “play ball” has more than one meaning to those who face a challenging future. Like the greats of baseball, what they achieve will make you feel better.
Forward march … maybe
Happily, the word came down from on high last week. Unlike the time it asked for (and got) $35 from a bicycle club when it wanted to wheel through its boundaries on the Old Plank Trail Road, the village of Matteson will not charge anyone a fee for a walk that may be held along the route on Independence Day.
Because of all the road construction on Orchard Drive and surrounding streets this year, Park Forest is canceling its annual Fourth of July parade. The thought was that something is better than nothing, so why not stage a do-it-yourself stroll along the Old Plank Trail that Wednesday?
But after hearing of the money paid to Matteson by the bicyclists, we feared the worst. Happily, it took only four phone calls (two on each end) to resolve the issue. We were assured that people on foot don’t need to pay, but people on bikes are considered a “special event” calling for that $35 fee.
We are thankful to the village of Matteson to be released from this financial burden.
The plan is to start from the old Target parking lot on Cicero Avenue at about 9 a.m. Since the trail goes both east and west, you can choose your own path, your own companions and stop when you wish.
It will be an aimless, formless stroll without much substance. We can call it “Occupy the Trail.” Singing of songs will be allowed, much to the dismay of those who have heard this scribbler’s range, which goes from Q Flat to Z sharp.
There will be no fire engine sirens, no floats and, thankfully, no throwing of candy. Come as you are or as you want to be.