BILLINGS – The Little League Challenger Division has one goal – make baseball available to any child, regardless of physical or intellectual disabilities.
The national program is in its 30th year, but the only Montana challenger league is in Missoula. Until now, as the Heights National Little League has decided to open a Challenger program.
“We’ve all seen the videos on YouTube or on Facebook, and these kids are so happy and having such a wonderful time, and their parents are so happy,” said Joni West, one of the organizers.
The division is open to any child ages 4-18 across Yellowstone County, and up to age 22 if the person is still in school, with no boundary restrictions.
“Anything from kids in wheelchairs or walkers, to autistic children, down syndrome children, anyone who is a special needs child,” said West.
All other kids are encouraged to join the league’s Buddy program.
“A buddy will help them out in the field and up to bat, basically letting them do what they can physically do, and just helping them with what they can’t,” West said of the Buddy system. “We want them to have the baseball or softball experience that everyone loves.”
Games will be played on a brand-new field at Medicine Crow middle school.
“It’s very wheelchair accessible,” said West. “Huge dugouts so the wheelchairs can get in and out of the dugouts, and lots of room for the buddies to sit with everyone, so we thought this would be the perfect spot.”
When asked why she jumped at the chance to get involved, West offered a simple response: “Who doesn’t want to help kids, first of all. They get shown so much love and attention, and it’s so fun for them to come out in the sunshine.”
The league is taking registrations until May 10th, with games slated to start shortly after. To register, go to www.heightsll.com. The cost is $20.
For more information, email the Heights National Little League at HLLNPresident@gmail.com or like their Facebook page – Heights National Little League.