District 13 Challenger Division History

 

District 13 has consistently evolved as a leader in Challenger baseball for the state. 

 

 Our History

 

1994 – District 13 Starts Challenger in Bartlett

 

The Bartlett Little League Challenger Division officially started in 1994 and was one of the first little leagues in the Chicagoland area to have a baseball program designed for special needs children.           
The league started with just 2 teams and grew rapidly.  Before

long, there were six teams with five consecutive years of serving
over 100 players.  Currently, Bartlett Little League has 50 players,
with most of the past participants aging out of program due to eligibility or moving to other programs closer to home. It is common for Bartlett Challenger players to participate in their program for 10 years straight.

 

Bartlett is a model for serving the community.  They are a staple in the Western suburbs for special needs baseball.  When mentioned, everyone in town recognizes the Bartlett Challengers, as the program that has touched thousands over its 18-year run. 

 

Bartlett has been very unselfish partnering with other leagues to support new growth.  For them, it was never about numbers, but all about giving kids opportunities to play, even if it meant their numbers would decline.  Bartlett’s Challenger Division has been a leader in

helping other municipalities (both inside and outside of Little League International) explore and understand the possibilities for creating special needs programs.  For example, in 2008 Bartlett helped Tri-Cities Little League start their very own Challenger program.  They also are very active with the Illinois Special Olympics in getting kids involved in other sports besides baseball.

 

Bartlett Little League is proud of their history, and they continue to view themselves as part of the solution.  This is why Bartlett is one of the longest running Challenger leagues in the state of Illinois.

 

Check out Bartlett at:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=Q1e6L5PYMZg#!

                                         : http://www.bllchallengers.org

 

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 2009 – New Challenger League for District 13: Tri-Cities

 

With the help of Bartlett Little League, Tri-Cities Little League started playing Challenger baseball.  In November of 2008, several leaders in the Little League were made aware of the program through a Little League training event.  The goal was simple, get enough kids to form two teams and play ball.  There was one problem.  The planners grossly underestimated the demand.  By opening day, 53 children had signed up. The league took the opportunity in the spirit of inclusion and recruited over 80 buddies to support the kids.  

Tri-Cities’ opening day was as special as it gets: field dressed, welcome signs, balloons, announcers, national anthem and food.    The league funded hot dogs grilled by the police and fire departments for all that came.  To give some perspective of the number of people in attendance, over 750 hot dogs were consumed on that Sunday afternoon. 

After that Sunday, the league walked away with two, major learnings:

 

1.       Tri-Cities was a better place because of Challenger.

2.       Challenger made our community a better place to live. 

 

In the local paper the next day the following quote appeared:
"What a wonderful event!! Everyone knows ‘Field of Dreams’ well this is ‘Field of Heaven’ for it is here that you can watch God's precious little angels play ball! ... I thank all of you, the organizers and the hundreds of volunteers from my heart!”  Parent of Challenger Player

 

Tri-Cities’ program has grown to 79 participants, and its leaders have helped start programs at Jackie Robinson West Little League in Chicago, and are currently working with several other groups in neighboring communities to start programs within their area.

 

Check out Tri-Cities Opening Day at: http://youtu.be/O5lxub7SYJI

                                                                   : http://www.eteamz.com/tri-citiesll/news/index.cfm?cat=355639

 

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 2012 - District 13 Welcomes Woodstock Challenger

With the help of Tri-Cities Little League, in June 2012 Woodstock Challengers started playing baseball.  The goal was to serve special needs children in northern McHenry County with an opportunity to play baseball in an organized environment.

It started as an idea with a target of two teams.  By opening day it blossomed into four teams playing six weeks of Challenger baseball.  Woodstock recruited players, buddies and managers from special education departments of the local school districts, Northern Illinois Special Recreation Department, and various other outlets that served the special need community.

Opening day in their inaugural year was covered by various local news outlets and was sponsored in part by the Woodstock Fire and Rescue Department.  Like Tri-Cities and Bartlett, there was strong community involvement. Opening day brought rain, but that did not stop the activities, as spirits were high and excitement was in the air.  The organizers went to Plan B, which was to host opening day at the fire house.  Kids were able to “touch a truck”, eat hotdogs and the local AAA Major League Mascot was there high fiving kids and posing for pictures.  All the kids were announced and they stood at attention when the National Anthem was played.   Despite the rain, Challenger opening day still went forward.   

The next week games were incredible.  Buddies and players played their first game together. For most players, it was the first time playing baseball. The hot summer day did not hinder spirits.  All six games were well attended by spectators.  Woodstock’s inaugural season was more than a joy, as it touched hundreds – players, parents and volunteers. 

Woodstock Little League is planning for many more years of Challenger Baseball. 

Check out Woodstock : http://www.woodstockchallenger.com/index.html

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2012 – District 13 Hosts Challenger Jamboree

 

In September 2012, Tri-Cities Little League hosted the first ever District 13 Jamboree.  The Jamboree was a two-day event that included Friday night baseball skills, hayrides and bonfires. Saturday included baseball games, craft tents, carnival games run by the Lions Club, access to the neighboring golf course and a petting zoo.  All Challenger participants received a Little League Challenger Pin, a medal, a trophy, a Challenger All Star t-shirt and a lunch certificate.  All of this was done free of charge, funded with donations from the local community.

 

The event had eighty players participating and brought in hundreds of volunteers.  Volunteers were from District 13 Little League, local schools, high school sports programs and clubs, area police & fire departments and church groups.  The Jamboree was truly an event that the community made successful.     

 

Based on the success of the Jamboree, District 13 has offered to host the Jamboree for other Challenger leagues in the State of Illinois for 2013.  Plans are forthcoming for the second annual Jamboree. 

 

Why Illinois District 13 is a Challenger Leader?

Reason 1: Longevity

·         Bartlett Challenger has been a staple in the community for 18 years

 

Reason 2: Growth

·         Tri-Cities Challenger started in 2009 and currently serves 79 players in the Dundee area, up from 53 players the first year

·         Woodstock Challenger started in 2012 serving 36 players their first year

 

Reason 3: Teaming

·         Strong Partnerships between Leagues.  Bartlett helped Tri-Cities start their league in 2009.  Tri-Cities helped Woodstock start their program in 2012.

·         League coordinators share ideas, refer players to each other and continually communicate

·         All three leagues partnered together to bring to fruition the inaugural District 13 Jamboree  

·         Four additional leagues within the District (who do not YET have Challenger programs) donated money to help make the Jamboree successful. Despite not having players, other leagues understood the importance of the event and made donations so the kids had an opportunity to play in a real tournament.

 

Reason 4: Leadership

·         Coordinating and executing first ever Challenger Jamboree for District 13

·         Actively working with the local school districts to bring more players in

·         Helping other organizations start Challenger programs throughout the state

·         Communicating the Challenger message broadly to local paper and television outlets

·         Volunteering and READY after our first Jamboree to host other Little Leagues around the state of Illinois

 

Reason 5:  Inclusion

·         Crossing the chalk lines of the baseball field – looking for other opportunities for beyond just baseball (i.e., Special Olympics, golf, social outings, fishing)

·         Hosting Challenger games at other game events, including the Softball State Championships

 

Reason 6:  Community

·         Over the last 18 years, the three leagues have touched thousands of players and volunteers

·         Over $5000 raised for the Jamboree from community donations

·         Hundreds of volunteers from service clubs, baseball teams, special needs volunteers, local board members, area schools

 

 

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