Kickball tourney aims to change attitudes
They encouraged each other, they joked with each other, and they even heckled each other — something that Jim Whalen, executive director at the Blue Water Center for Independent Living, said onlookers may not have at first expected.
“When we have events like this where we have a lot of participants, that’s a symbolic thing that really helps people understand that people with disabilities can participate and do participate in the community,” Whalen said. “That attitudinal thing is the big thing.”
The annual event Kickball For All pitted four teams of 10 against each other with two teams playing in the first and second games and the winners and losers of each bout subsequently facing off.
BWCIL Deputy Director Laura Steele emphasized the “all-inclusive” roster of participants, which included both players with different disabilities and abilities.
Organized by BWCIL and The Arc, the event also combined the tournament with a small informational fair representing multiple local health and nonprofit agencies as well as bouncy houses and music for kids.
Steele and Whalen said an important component to the event this year was that it fell within a few days of the 25th anniversary of the July 26, 1990, signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
In that span of time, Whalen said while physical access to public facilities has improved in communities nationwide, general attitudes about people with disabilities still have room to improve.
“It’s been a great turnout. We’re still hoping for more people to show up,” Steele said Friday before the final games occurred. “It’s a great mix of people with different disabilities or no disabilities. It proves to everybody that anybody can participate.”
Scott Shine, executive director at The Arc, and Becky McFarlane, who’s been a team captain for the last four years, mingled with participants as they readied for another game late Friday morning.
Shine said that all the players are “extremely competitive.”
“At the end of the game, you can tell they’re all still friends,” he said. “When they’re on the field, it’s pretty intense.”
McFarlane, of Blue Water Development Housing, attested to the competitive nature of the game among its participants.
But she added it’s also what helps keep them coming back to the annual event.
“So we have some regulars that like to come back each year,” McFarlane said. “And there’s a little bit of competitiveness with that too — the who gets to play with who.”
Contact Jackie Smith at (810) 989-6270 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter @Jackie20Smith.