On October 17, St. Thomas Varsity Football and Cheerleading teams joined 20 West University Challenger players and their families for a night of football and fun. Challengers ran, threw, caught, and scored during a football game at Granger Stadium. Even though no score was kept, it was extremely exciting and fulfilling for all.
The Challenger Division of WULL (West University Little League) started in 2005 as a baseball program for boys and girls ages 5 -18 years old with physical and intellectual challenges. This program affords every child the opportunity to participate in a structured athletic program while experiencing team work, and the thrill of competition. The partnership between St. Thomas and the Challenger league began with baseball and football. Basketball has been the newest addition to the STH-Challenger games.
“When we started Challenger Sports, we thought we’d change the lives of our special players but in reality, they have changed our lives making us more inclusive, caring and kind. The friendships that are formed on the fields and courts extend far beyond into the classrooms and community,” said Joni Fichter, Director of West University Challenger.
St. Thomas has proudly worked with the Challenger league for the past 13 years, hosting the football Challenger game in the fall, the basketball Challenger game in winter, and the baseball Challenger game in spring at West University Little League complex. “Working with Joni Fichter and Challenger is always one of the highlights of our year in the athletic department. We see many of the same families for all three events and also see many families return each year. It’s truly a special time to spend and provide a little fun and joy for the Challenger athletes and their families,” said Mike Netzel, Director of Athletics.
The athletes in the Challenger league benefit from getting to play and meet others in a fun sports environment. Thanks to the efforts of so many, the Challenger league children are given the opportunity to play football, baseball, and basketball, transforming their disabilities to abilities and achievements.
Fichter adds, “We are truly blessed by our Challengers and all those, like STH, who support this special mission where Everyone Plays, Everyone Scores and Everyone Wins!”