STELLARTON — Students at G.R. Saunders Elementary School got a chance recently to enjoy Challenger Baseball, with the help of Mayor League Baseball’s Toronto Blue Jays.
Instructors with the Jays Care Foundation visited the school last Thursday for an hour-long morning session in the gym.
Saunders is among schools that have accepted the foundation’s offer of funding to engage students with physical and cognitive challenges.
Julia Porter was among the three Toronto-based instructors who visited the school. She said she recognizes how Challenger Baseball has taken root in Nova Scotia and the potential for more youngsters to take part in Challenger Baseball in school settings.
She explained how schools in B.C. and Ontario have embraced the program and how Nova Scotia’s Challenger Baseball component can bring the program to schools in the province.
“There’s a huge presence in Nova Scotia,” she said.
She said Challenger Baseball has enormous benefits. More physical activity means kids are less likely to become obese.
“Kids in Challenger Baseball are more confident and engaging because of these opportunities,” she said. “Some may not have played baseball, so (Challenger Baseball) won’t be as scary as it may seem.”
Allison Kearley, a Challenger coach who teaches Grade 4 at Saunders school, and her husband Trevor have helped advance Challenger Baseball in Pictou County and elsewhere in Nova Scotia.
“She and her husband are passionate about getting kids involved in sports,” Porter said.
Porter and her colleagues passed the kids through a series of basic exercises to prepare them for the fundamentals of hitting and throwing a ball and running the bases.
The foundation provides the equipment and training for the program.
“They are amazing,”Allison Kearley said, referring to the instructors and how their focus and high energy help the students. “They were looking to get Challenger baseball in schools. Our goal is to increase membership and we’re seeing how other county schools have expressed interest.”
Five youngsters also attended weekend events in Halifax: Jude Allen, Gabby Finney, Carson Campbell, James Tulloch and Jessica Kearley.
Challenger baseball has been in Nova Scotia for five years. Its membership has grown from 40 kids in 2014 to 350 at present.
The Nova Scotia group has adopted the Daniel Arsenault Award that will be presented in his memory to a Challenger athlete, buddy or volunteer who works to improve their community. It will be presented in August of each year in conjunction with its annual provincial jamboree.
“Our group has actually hosted the provincial Jamboree four of the five years,” Trevor Kearley said. “We will be hosting the Jamboree in August 2019, so the very first year the award will be presented will be done right here in Pictou County.”
From left, Carson Mayich tosses the ball as fellow student Riley Spears, instructor Julia Porter watch and fellow student Leeland Babineau. (Goodwin photo)