As his son Austin grew older, Rick Morris found himself in a heartbreaking situation.
From the age of 10, Austin's special needs were an obstacle with school sports, particularly baseball. Morris, a local pastor and father, couldn’t find active local sports leagues for children with special needs. His family's personal experience made him turn his eye to others in the area. “I'm very much a community-minded person,” Morris says. He saw the same problem affecting other families so, in the spring of 2011, Morris began the Engage All-Stars League.
Currently based at Bedford Church of the Nazarene in Lambertville, Engage All-Stars provides young people with disabilities an opportunity to participate in a variety of sports through individual attention and mentoring. The league offers sports in every season including indoor soccer and basketball, but the summer baseball season is most popular with the kids; baseball season this year kicks off on Saturday, May 18. The schedule involves one game per week and no practices. Parents can fill out an interest or registration form online through engage.bedfordnazare.com to get their child enrolled in advance of the May start date. “I was amazed at the number of families looking for something like this,” Morris says.
Morris got the League started modestly, dedicating his own money to the cause and using his church’s baseball field. Morris admits that getting the word out about the League was at first “an impossible task.” Although they have a website now, he explains that interested parents find out mostly through word of mouth, family-to-family. Now with help from fundraisers and the community, the league's influence is affecting the lives of dozens of special needs children.
A truly open organization, Morris explains that the Engage All-Stars League does not restrict participants based on age or ability and invites all who wish to participate. “One of my all-time goals is to have a facility to accommodate anybody with any disability,” says Morris. Regardless of anyone's
particular accessibility issues, the league's leaders and mentors will help participants stay active, safe, and engaged.
This year's fee for baseball is under $15 per child, with scholarships available for multiple-child households. Parents can fill out the contact, interest, or registration forms online through engage.bedfordnazarene.com, or reach Morris directly at 419-450-8697.