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The Madison County Buddy Ball League had beautiful weather for the start of its season May 12.

It was the red team verses the blue team, but in the end, everyone was a winner with smiles plastered on the faces of everyone from the kids to those watching from the sidelines. 

The new, non-competitive league gives children and adults--with any type of disability--the opportunity to be a part of a team.

"Regardless of their needs we will adapt the game to make sure they can play," League Coordinator Missy Bowman said. "We believe this is a great way for our community to come together to show support for individuals with disabilities."

Each player was matched with a buddy who will stay with them the whole season. Bowman said this is a way for them to build friendships along the way.

The buddies spent the whole game along side the player helping them run bases, catch balls and cheer them on along the way.

"They get to feel like a regular kid because they see their peers at school and their running around and playing on the playground and playing sports and they hear other peers talking about playing sports on Saturday or playing soccer and baseball. Now this kind of evens the playing field for them," Volunteer Erin Graham said. "They can go and talk about playing ball, saying 'I hit the ball' or 'I got on first' or 'I caught the ball.' It's really exciting because it adds another dynamic to their day that they can talk to with their peers."

Graham said a lot of kids are willing to help out in school, but usually do not have the opportunity due to having enough staff and them having to be in class themselves. 

"It enables the other kids to really get to know these kids on a new level," Graham said. "I think it's going to bring more inclusion. It's going to open the eyes of other kids to see these kids can do things too."

Graham said just because they have a disabitlity does not mean they do not want to do what their peers do and Buddy Ball gives them a chance on another level so they can.

"Given the chance, some of these kids may be inspired to do something later in life like the Paralympics or get involved in the community in a way that will change things for the future," Graham said.

Graham said with a lot of things they die out due to the next generation not continuing it on, but, with the inclusion of the buddies at younger ages, this may inspire them to keep the program going for generations.

"Who know it may be a small thing this year and it may grow into a huge thing in the future with several local teams," Graham said. "You never know what could come from this. I feel lucky and blessed to get to be involved." 

One thing is for certain, the smiles on the players faces were worth the effort as you could hear them bragging about their hits and exclaiming how they could not wait to tell their mom about that.

Bowman said she would like to thank all the sponsors without who's help the league would not be possible.

Sponsors include SMTS, Sargent Construction, Giffrod Lumber Company, The Pig Bar-B-Q, MoWear USA, Country Mart, Parkland Health Mart, Bess Insurance, Mike Thompson & Sons, LLC, Black River Electric, First State Community Bank, OPAA! Food Management Inc., Cap America and Casey's General Store.

The Madison County Buddy Ball League currently has 16 kids and 20 adults playing ball with two teams. There is still room. Anyone interested in joining the fun, can contact Missy Bowman at 573-561-6293. 

The league is also still in need of adult size gloves and batting helmets. 

Victoria Kemper is a reporter for the Democrat News. She can be reached at 573-783-3366 or at vkemper@democratnewsonline.com

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