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Hitting home runs

Christy Barnett, right, gets a big hug from Adreona Caudle during the awards ceremony of Homeruns and Family Fun. | Brent Maze

Special needs league gives local kids chance to play ball

Each spring, Dee Walker gets to feel just like a typical parent when her 14-year-old daughter, Madison, gets to play softball.

“It just feels good when you get the opportunity to take off work a little early to go see your daughter play softball,” Dee Walker said. “You just feel like any other parent when you can do that.”

Madison Walker, who is a special needs child from Hartselle, participates in the Homeruns and Family Fun softball league on the ball fields behind Sparkman Jr. High School. The league completed its second year on June 2 with its final games, awards ceremony and dinner at the ballpark.

Dee Walker said this is just an opportunity for these kids to get some exercise and give the parents a break from the norm.

“The softball league is just great for everyone involved,” Dee Walker said. “The kids get a chance to get out and get moving. They get to experience the things that typical kids do by playing on a ball team and interact with other kids. It’s great for the parents too because they get to see their kids play ball and they get to interact with other parents at the park.”

Cam Harris, who helped organize the league again this year, said it’s a lot of hard work to put the league on every year, but she said it’s worth it. They charge just $20 per family, which is barely enough to cover T-shirts and snacks every week.

Other expenses the league has are covered by corporate and private donations. Pepsi gave a generous donation to help the league get going. Mt. Zion Baptist Church also catered the awards dinner at the park.

“We don’t do this to make money,” Harris said. “We just try to break even and we want everyone to come out have lots of fun.”

This year, the league had four teams for a total of 64 players with players representing all areas of the county including Hartselle, Priceville, Somerville, Falkville and Decatur. They started playing in April and continued through the first week in June, just as the weather begins to get hot.

Score isn’t kept. Players who come up to bat always get the chance to score. If they can’t hit the pitch, they get to the ball of a tee and then run the bases.

Some players are able to do it on their own while others require some help of volunteers, who are either teachers at Sparkman, students from surrounding schools or other community members.

“We wouldn’t be able to do it without our volunteers,” Harris said. “They are what keeps this going, and they seem to have a great time too.”

Nickey Chamberlain, 17, of Falkville looks forward to playing ball each spring.

“When it gets that time of year, he always ask us, ‘When’s it gonna start?’” said his mother, Sandy Chamberlain. “He’s always looking to ball season. It’s fun for all of us.”

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