Ten years ago, special needs children playing in the Orangetown Mighty Midgets Soccer League seemed unable to keep up with their teammates and some parents wondered if maybe they might need an instructional league that paid attention to their unique needs.
And so Buddy Ball was born, which paired volunteers with the players on a one-to-one level, literally taking them by the hand to teach them the game. The effort grew quickly and parents loved the interaction which help to build both social and recreational skills, while also gaving parents the ability to meet with other parents going through the same challenges.
"It just blossomed" said OMM president Kerry Beckmann, and by the time the first season ended due to the approaching winter, parents asked for more. The program then turned to basketball.
Sunday morning, the second week of an eight week program was underway and the gymnasium at Pearl River High School was packed with about 100 athletes ages 3-21, and an equal number of volunteer buddies plus coaches and parents who watched from the bleachers.
"The buddies get as much out of it as the children" said Beckmann. "They enjoy the time with the kids -- many of them are middle school and varsity players themselves, and they also take the opportunity to fulfil their community service obligations."
The basketball program is in it's seventh season and has grown to the point where more advanced players have moved to Albertus Magnus High School to allow enough room at PRHS for the program to run comfortably. In the spring, the program shifts to track and field.