RBHS students learn lessons from DBLL Challenger League

Molly Mehle

While many of his peers sat at home, stressed over homework or catching up on the latest missed episode of their favorite TV show, junior Jack Knoesel stood, forfeiting his Monday night, playing sports with many disabled kids.
RBHS has a diverse variety of clubs offered, many of which do volunteer work around the community. From picking up trash to working at food banks, RBHS students are helpful influences in Columbia. Key Club, a ‘student-led organization with the goal of teaching leadership through helping’ at RBHS, participates in a unique form of volunteer work.
On Monday nights, Key Club members play baseball with a group of mentally and physically disabled children at the Daniel Boone baseball fields.
“I was working with a kid named John one time, and he wouldn’t talk, he wouldn’t say anything,” RBHS Key Club president, senior Nate Horvit, said. “I was singing ‘Take me out to the ball game’ by myself. I forgot the lyrics and he ended up finishing the song for me; that was the first time I’d heard him talk all practice.”
Not only do the club members get to hang out with friends; they, at the same time, have the opportunity to make an impact on many kids’ lives.
“Challenger League is a really fun experience. It gives you such a rewarding feeling knowing that you are making a change in someone’s life,” sophomore Megan Sherman said. “I remember working with a kid who looked forward to Challenger League every week. Although he couldn’t communicate with us, you could see how happy he was; he went for every ball that came his way.”
Little League Challenger Division is a world-wide organization. Established in 1989, Challenger League is generally for mentally or physically challenged kids at the ages of four to 22 depending on if they’re still enrolled in high school. More than 30,000 kids take part in more than 900 Challenger Divisions around the nation and around the world.
RBHS Key Club works with Challenger Division at the Daniel Boone baseball fields in Columbia. As big an impact Challenger League makes on the disabled kids, it’s an incredible experience for the RBHS students, too.
“Every Monday we get out there and do Challenger League Baseball,” Horvit said. “It’s a really rewarding experience, just seeing that you’re working with the player and they’re playing baseball just like everybody else. You’re making an impact on their life.”
Challenger League runs because of people who care for the cause and the kids involved. Karen O’Connor has been a Challenger League volunteer for about six years and loves getting the opportunity to work with different kids with various disabilities.
“I called and said I wanted to be a volunteer one night kind of like what you guys are doing, and they asked me if I wanted to coach, and then the next year I took over,” O’Connor said. “I love it because it gives the kids an opportunity to play an outdoor game that sometimes they don’t have the opportunity to do. And it also is great because they get to be partnered up with kids about their age so they get the chance to work with peers and even learn how to play a sport.”
Challenger League serves as an influential experience for the kids and the RBHS students who help out with the activity. Key Club contributes an uplifting form of volunteer work that effects the students and the kids they’re spending time with.
Knoesel had the chance to watch a boy, who was confused and hesitant at first, get into the game and have a great time. Making it possible for the kids to feel comfortable and enjoy themselves ultimately makes Challenger League the worth-while experience it is.
“I really like coming to Challenger League because it’s really cool to see the kids have fun, and do something that they normally wouldn’t be able to do without something put on like this,” Knoesel said. “The best part about it is like last time, I helped this guy named Wes, and he didn’t really know what was going on, and then as the day went on you see him start smiling and having fun. And that’s really the whole reason I come: to see these kids smile and laugh and have fun, even if it is only an hour.”
By Molly Mehle