ExCEL program touches lives

Published 6:31 pm Wednesday, July 29, 2015

In 2009, the ExCEL program began simply as a way for a father to give his special needs son a chance to play his favorite sport and interact with other kids his age. For a couple hours, disabled became simply a word, as not just parents, but a community rallied around a common goal — to have fun.

Now, seven years later, ExCEL, like the very children it helped over the years, has evolved into a program that’s developed confidence in special needs kids and character in those who volunteer.

The ExCEL baseball league, formally a T-ball league, is now a six-week long season with six games, beginning on Sept. 13. Organizer Allen Pittman, whose son Jason has participated every year, encourages people to volunteer and parents to register their special needs children. Those who participate almost always return.

The game has also been a yearly preseason stopover from the Pam Pack football team. Taking a break from what can be a rigorous gridiron grind in the days leading up to the season, the players spend a couple hours each week at ExCEL’s program, having fun, building relationships and learning life lessons alongside those who aren’t able to suit up for the Pam Pack. The volunteering players usually walk away from the game with a better appreciation for their own athletic gifts.

Above all else, ExCEL offers parents of special needs children the opportunity to watch their son or daughter have fun on their own terms, with little help and in a stress-free environment. Sometimes we forget how much work, time and money can go into raising a special needs child. For most loving parents, they wouldn’t have it any other way. But that being aside, the chance to kick back and watch their child enjoy themselves for an afternoon without the parent’s help can be a gift, one that doesn’t come often.

ExCEL is a rewarding program that benefits those who volunteer and those who participate. To register your child or volunteer for the ExCEL Special Needs Baseball Game, contact Allen Pittman at 252-412-5400.