Adaptive Sports for Kids (ASK) was established in Nederland, Texas, in 2011 with the purpose of enriching the lives of children and adults with disabilities, including Down syndrome, autism, cerebral palsy, spinal bifida, birth defects and other physical disabilities, by offering them and their families the experience of year-round recreational activities, free of charge.
“You’ll see no better example of joy, commitment and fun,” says Becky Nation, grandmother of a participant. “It’s unbelievable. So heartwarming.”
In spring 2012, ASK started with a baseball league (four teams for 10-year-olds and younger and two teams for older children and adults) comprised of 120 players. Later, a soccer league was established with more than 40 participants, and taekwondo classes were offered with more than 80 participants. The following year, a sideline cheerleader group was established with six young ladies and a competition cheer team included eight young ladies and men. This fall, a flag football league will be launched. League play rotates through the four seasons.
“It means everything to her,” says parent and coach Clint Fregia. “Here they can come and be themselves…what is normal for them.”
In 2012, the partnership between ASK and the Nederland Parks and Recreation Department was formalized. Nederland has a proud athletic tradition, fielding strong football, baseball, basketball, softball and volleyball programs through the school district and various youth athletic groups, but there were no athletic leagues or groups for children and adults with disabilities. The parks department hosts the baseball, soccer, taekwondo, basketball and flag football leagues at the city’s flagship park, Doornbos Park. Financially, the parks department actively supports the organization, funding the necessary repairs and upgrades to the fields, such as fence repairs, purchase of pop-up dugouts, restroom renovations, etc. Now, the group attracts participants from Nederland and the surrounding communities.
“I feel close to this group being handicapped myself,” Nederland Mayor R.A. Nugent tells the group. “I feel like I can relate to some of your challenges, and I feel like I am one of you. We are proud to be a part of your organization in your new home.”
The Nederland community has been extremely supportive of ASK. The sport leagues require “buddies” who assist the participants by pushing wheelchairs, fielding balls, mentoring players, etc. “Buddies” have included members of the Nederland High School baseball team, Mid-County TaeKwonDo, sororities and fraternities from McNeese State University, and Holy Cross Lutheran and St. Francis Catholic churches. Financial support has also come from civic clubs — the Lion’s Club, the Vacation Bible School of Holy Cross Lutheran Church and Noon Optimist Club. In addition, Cooper Slott, a 9-year-old who participated in the Elks Lodge’s Hoop Shoot contest, raised more than $4,000, which he donated to ASK.
ASK’s relationship with the Nederland community will continue to grow over the coming years. ASK’s taekwondo and cheerleading groups plan to participate in the city’s “Christmas on the Avenue,” National Night Out and Art in the Park events; the ASK board of directors continues to fundraise and promote their organization. Long-term, the partnership between ASK and Nederland Parks and Recreation will continue to strengthen, making the dreams of those who play, coach, cheer, support and volunteer continue to come true.
Angela Fanette is the Parks and Recreation Director for the City of Nederland, Texas.