When it comes to sports, children with disabilities often feel forced to sit on the sidelines as they watch others have the fun, unable to kick the ball, make the shot or run the bases. That is where Lead the Challenge (LTC) comes in, a softball league specifically designed to give children and young adults with disabilities the opportunity to participate in organized sports.
“Oftentimes, children with disabilities may have never had any experience with sports due to limitations they face regarding their certain disability,” LTC board member Dustin Gilmer said.
Dustin Gilmer is a graduate of Ball State University, where he graduated with a bachelor’s of arts in Journalism and Telecommunications. He currently serves as the project manager for the Office of Disability Affairs for the city of Indianapolis. He was an LTC player for seven years.
“I was always interested in sports,” he said. “Being able to be a part of LTC allowed me to go to school and talk to my friends, who also played sports, about my games. It allowed me an opportunity to enjoy sports more than just from behind a TV screen.”
Gilmer said that team sizes vary from year to year, but that LTC has anywhere from four to six teams with eight to 10 players participating on each team.
One other factor that goes into team size is the number of peer players that we have signed up for that year as well,” he continued. “Peer players are what makes LTC unique. They are individuals, often peers of the players themselves, who volunteer to assist with various things during the season such as batting, fielding, throwing the ball, running the bases and even learning the game of softball as they go. Peer players are also tasked with ensuring that the players stay safe while participating.”
Gilmer said that being a part of the team allows peer players to see the disabled as no different than they are.
“They see that in a whole new way,” he said. “These kids might do things differently than they do, but they share some of the same interests, have goals and often build new friendships out of participating in LTC.”
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