Hundreds of special athletes took to the fieldBY CHUCK TUCK | JOURNAL REPORTER Season closes with huge success and lots of fun Parents and supporters line the field at the baseball Jamboree. This past Saturday marked the end of the season for the Challenger baseball division with an all out Jamboree in Snohomish. 15 teams and its players, and their families and friends gathered for one last day of fun and friendship on one playing field.
The Challenger is a baseball division for physically or mentally challenged children to play in an organized league that gives each player a fair opportunity at a semi competitive level.
The division 1 Challenger league includes the Lake Stevens Vikings.
“It’s a lot of fun to be out here with the kids,” Coach Jared Cooper of the Vikings said.
Mukilteo Mayor Joe Marine and Snohomish County Sheriff John Lovick attended the Jamboree and enjoyed watching the kids have fun as well.
“This is the fun part of the job,” said Marine. “It doesn’t get any better than kids.”
Kenny Stuart is a firefighter and President of the Local 27; he stopped by with his family to donate $1,100 to the organization. Stuart said that even though he’s from Seattle, the Local 27 supports many organizations and individuals throughout the state.
As the teams marched onto the field and lined up in front of their respective team signs, Jamboree Coordinator Jolene Knapp led everyone in reciting the Pledge of Allegiance.
Team Manager for the Vikings, Mignonne Walstad, was visibly moved by the moment as she looked around at the kids and the flag in the foreground.
“This is empowering, we want the community to know this is out here,” she said.
She also said that the uniqueness of the Lake Stevens team is that they allow families from other communities to join their team if they like. Walstad added that she has been an advocate for families and children her entire adult life, and says that it is important for people to see that every child counts.
It is absolutely imperative to have a program like Challenger.
“It is important for every child to feel special and Little League gives them the opportunity,” Knapp said. “These children deal with a lot of challenges in their lives and baseball gives them the chance to feel normal. Fortunately, Little League has such a program to encourage, enrich and give a little bit of normalcy in their lives. The bonds the coaches’ form with the children is quite special and life changing for the children as well as the coaches and anyone involved in the program.”
It was batter-up, as the first player for the Vikings in his yellow jersey with the team sponsor, Jay’s Market, took home-plate ready to make the first swing.