Baseball Without Borders: A Different Approach To Sports Baseball Without Borders: A Different Approach To Sports

More than 250 disabled children come together each week with one goal: a smile.

(Anchor) – When you think of baseball, you think of the World Series Champions holding up the coveted Commissioner’s trophy … But baseball is played a little differently down in Warwick, NY. There’s no score, and yet, everyone’s a winner. N-C-C News’ Ryan Clarke traveled down to Orange County to find out how special needs sports are special in their own way.

(Ryan Clarke) – The crack of the bat, the ball hitting the glove, and the roar of a home crowd can excite even the tiniest of sports fans. Every child deserves a chance to play … And that’s exactly what the nonprofit Beautiful People helps kids with disabilities do each and every week. In the United States, 1 in 5 children are born disabled. However, in Warwick, a smile is worth much more than a home run, goal or buzzer beater. It’s all the parents watching from the sidelines could have ever asked for.

(Ryan Clarke) – No matter the disability, Beautiful People and its hundreds of volunteers make sure every single child has a chance to play. Jan Brunkhorst, the Executive Director of Beautiful People, began working with the nonprofit more than 10 years ago. She said that the organization’s goal is to help differently abled children have the chance to play on a team and make new friends.

(Jan Brunkhorst) – “Beautiful People provides adaptive sports for children with special needs either developmental disabilities or physical challenges.”

(Jan Brunkhorst) – “The mission of Beautiful People is to build bridges between children and adults with disabilities, their families, and the broader community.”

(Ryan Clarke) – From 20 children about 10 years ago to over 250 now. And it’s not just growth in numbers. Brunkhorst believes that Beautiful People has not only grown as an organization, but the players themselves have grown as well.

(Jan Brunkhorst) – “I see smiling faces, I see kids that are making friends and that have made long friendships by just keeping with the program. Ummm, and you know, coming out the field, running out to the field, high fives. It’s wonderful.”

(Ryan Clarke) – Children of all ages and backgrounds join together at Daniel Fratto Memorial Field to practice their swings, fielding, and sportsmanship, but Brunkhorst says that it means way more than just a little workout.

(Jan Brunkhorst) – “Our parents have told us through surveys we’ve conducted that they’ve seen changes in the children, behavioral changes. Building self-esteem, confidence, agility, mobility, and an interest in sports they didn’t have before. Wow.”

(Ryan Clarke) – No matter what each child’s’ needs are, Beautiful People makes it work. Holly Gubernick-Borzaciello, a coach and parent says that she’s personally seen children grow in a way she’s never seen before.

(Holly Gubernick-Borzzaciello) – “Well, it’s , you know, Some of these kids have no friends. They have no friends at home. They don’t have know how to communicate they don’t know how to relate with others socially, but you just see it just develop over time because they see the same faces over time. And they just build a comfort, and that’s good for them whether it’s sports related or not. I’ve seen kids who didn’t have much language develop language, they all grow in there own ways.”

(Ryan Clarke) – It can be tough for children with disabilities to make friends, be on a team, and have some fun. Sometimes, they feel different or left out. However, at Beautiful People, there’s no such thing as being alone.

“I batted!!!! You batted? Yea!!!!!”

“I like uhhhhh, being the batter”

“Since I’ve started playing baseball I’ve learned what the stats are in baseball and what happens behind the scenes of a game.”

“Miracle League impacted my son because it gave him equal opportunity to be able to play sports.”

(Ryan Clarke) – Adaptive sports for people with disabilities. A place where kids of all ages can come and do something different than the norm. Have fun.

(Ryan Clarke) – Ryan Clarke, NCC News.

Warwick, N.Y. (NCC News) — Beautiful People founder Peter Ladka had just finished a successful business career. As he sat at home, he had one goal, to give back. All it took was one infomercial, an advertisement for the Miracle League, an adaptive baseball league with more than 150 chapters across the United States. Ladka knew what Warwick needed. Sports for children with disabilities.

people cutting a ribbon.
Beautiful People celebrated their new adaptive sports field being opened this past summer.
© 2017 Beautiful People

One in five children in the United States are born with disabilities, according to data from the United States census. However, the word disability encompasses much more than most people think. Children can have mental, physical, or emotional challenges that might not be visible to the naked eye.

“Adaptive sports for children with disabilities,” are seen on hundreds of shirts all over Daniel Fratto Memorial Field on any given Saturday.

Volunteers from across Orange County venture to Warwick each week to become one-on-one buddies to disabled children, no matter their condition.

“Every child deserves to play sports,” said Jan Brunkhorst, the executive director of the nonprofit.

Brunkhorst said Beautiful People’s goal is not for children to just improve their athletic ability. She believes that the emotional aspect of the nonprofit is the true reason why people come back each week.

“I’ve seen children make friends, join a team, and have something to look forward to each week. That’s really something,” said Brunkhorst.

The organization’s goal is simple, a smile for volunteers, children, and parents alike each Sunday in Warwick.

“If they (the children) come off the field happy, then we are doing our job,” Brunkhorst said.

Beautiful People opened their new adaptive sports field in Warwick this past May.

Reported by

Ryan Clarke

Ryan Clarke is a junior studying both Broadcast & Digital Journalism and Political Science at Syracuse University. Clarke is a researcher and content creator for Cincinnati-based football analytics company ProFootballFocus. In addition, he is also a color commentator for CNYStream, along with a writer/reporter for both WAER and CitrusTV. In the past, Clarke has interned for local news organizations - along with Fox News in NYC.

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