By Airman 1st Class Rose Gudex
21st Space Wing Public Affairs
PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo — “Monkey stance, monkey stance!”
As each child came up to bat, a coach shouted instructions to get ready, “monkey stance” as they called it, to everyone on the field.
No matter the skill level, ability or even which team, every player was given the same instruction and encouragement during a t-ball game at Patriot Park, July 28.
The sports program at the R.P. Lee Youth Center puts inclusion of all kids, special needs included, at the top of their priority list. It gives parents peace of mind to know their kids are being treated equally and are part of a team.
For example, a six-year-old on the team, Brecken Levy, is a little different than his teammates, but you wouldn’t know it from their interactions. He has periventricular leukomalacia, a type of brain damage with the white matter that, in Brecken’s case, resulted in cerebral palsy.
His mom, Jenny Levy, said his disability causes him to have weak muscles and move a little slower than other children his age. Brecken’s knees don’t stop when he does, so he wears braces on his legs and body weights to help him move more normally.
When looking for an after-school sports program to put her kids in, Jenny said she looked for a program that can accommodate special needs kids and teach both the sport and how to be a team player.
In choosing the R.P. Lee Youth Center sports program for her kids, she said she saw improvements in Brecken’s socialization and knowledge of being different, while still being able to keep up. She said the support from the other kids is huge.
“He needs to know he’s different,” Jenny added. “(The other kids) don’t ignore it. They accept it and they don’t let him use it as an excuse.”
One of the team’s coaches, Ali Griffin, said the program gives every child an introduction to the game, no matter what sport, and a chance to have fun. She said accommodations or modifications can be made if necessary, although Brecken is on par with the rest of the players.
“They treat him like any other kid,” she said. “They throw grass at each other the same way they would anyone else.”
The welcoming environment and learning atmosphere creates an experience all kids should participate in, both coach and mom said.
“Not doing it keeps them caged,” Jenny said. “Being a mom, I notice it more, the other special needs kids. You just need to let them have the experiences. Let them see how it goes.”
For more information on R.P. Lee Youth Center programs, please call 719-556-7220.