New Brunswick

'Swing, run, have fun' only rules for Dalhousie baseball team

Challenger baseball, an inclusive sports team for children with physical and cognitive disabilities, is in its infancy in Dalhousie, but already receiving rave reviews from players and parents. "There was a one day event during the Bon Ami festival. A lady put it together and I thought it was great,"said Daniel Bernard

First season for team a success with 14 registrants, plus 'buddies,' or guides

Emanuelle Bernard and her mother, Marie-Josee, step up to the plate at Challenger Baseball in Dalhousie (Bridget Yard/CBC)

Challenger baseball, an inclusive sports team for children with physical and cognitive disabilities, is in its infancy in Dalhousie, N.B., but it's already receiving rave reviews from players and parents.

"There was a one day event during the Bon Ami festival. A lady put it together and I thought it was great," said Daniel Bernard, the president of Dalhousie's Field of Dreams program.

Daniel Bernard, founder and president of Dalhousie's Field of Dreams/Challenger Baseball team, heard about the program five years ago and knew he had to be part of it. (Bridget Yard/CBC)
"I said to myself I gotta get in contact with them because this is great."

Bernard, whose daughter Emanuelle, has cognitive disabilities, was determined to bring the program to his hometown, so his daughter could experience the sport.

Now, five years later, the town's first season has 14 registered athletes, plus "buddies," who guide some players around the diamond.

"There's no rules, no strike, just swing, hit, run, and have fun. Period," said Bernard.

'These kids...they have rights'

On the first day of practice, once the players donned their uniforms, Daniel Bernard says the parents were most affected.

"There was not one parent here not crying," he said.

Nine-year-old Devon Furr prefers Challenger baseball to more traditional teams.

"During practice last time I got eight home runs in a row!" he said.

Devon Furr, 9, "got eight home runs in a row!" during his first game at Challenger Baseball in Dalhousie (Bridget Yard/CBC)
"It's easier, it's slower," said his mother, Carleen Furr.

For Lena Savoie's 10-year-old son, Ethan, the team is a safe alternative.

"He played soccer last year but couldn't do it because he broke his arm but still he had difficulty to follow the other ones," said Savoie.

Proud parents

The goal of the program is to give the children confidence and a chance at recreation and physical activity, but also to show others they are able to participate.

"You see these kids...they have rights. As anybody else does," said Daniel Bernard. "Here, everyone is equal. If you have a walker, wheelchair, if you're autistic."

After running around the field, guiding his daughter Emanuelle, he adds, "And it's amazing to see my daughter in a uniform. It's great."​

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