The Darien Little League Challenger Division was selected to receive funding to continue offering children with special needs a local athletic program.
The funding, in the amount of $7,500, was given by the JR Schoen Foundation which was created by Sharon Schoen after her son died of a brain tumor in 2008. The foundation raises money through their JR Forever Walk and then donates the proceeds to brain tumor research, families dealing with life-threatening illnesses and local nonprofit organizations.
"We are grateful to have been selected by the JR Schoen Memorial Foundation to be one of the beneficiaries of the funds raised through their annual JR Forever Walk. We are honored to have been chosen to receive a gift of this magnitude. This contribution is another milestone for our program and will afford us the opportunity bring even greater attention and focus to our players and families," Challenger League Commissioner and Head Coach Charlie Santos-Buch said in a statement. "The Foundation support will meaningfully contribute to the ongoing evolution of the Challenger Program and ultimately help to make a great program even better than we believe it is today."
The Challenger League will use the money to provide a number of services which include: "delivering professional instructional capacity from special needs experts on a consistent basis to help our players reach higher levels of cognitive thinking and physical dexterity; providing adaptive equipment to enhance player motor functions and improve attention and focus; making field improvements to our existing facilities to be even more accessible to our players and their families with a high premium for safety; instructional programs for our `Buddies' in making them the best they can be for our players and preparing them for the emotional peaks and valleys of working with special needs children; and, organize social events around baseball-themed recreational activities including trips to professional events and venues to enhance their Challenger baseball experience," Santos-Buch said.
In his statement Santos-Buch said one of the challenges some families face is the cost of raising a child with special needs because of the additional services that are required. The money the division received will allow for more scholarships to be made available to needy families, Santos-Buch said.
Schoen explained how the foundation was created after a group of friends and family decided to throw a birthday party for her son who would have been 10 years old.
"After JR died three and a half years ago, some of my close friends and family decided to throw him a big birthday party on the day he would have turned 10 and decided that a birthday party that he would have loved would be a get together at the beach and a walk. That's how the JR Forever Walk started. Then we decided that if people could donate towards the walk then we could give a big birthday present to some of the organizations here in Darien that meant something to JR and our friends and family," she said in a statement. "In the past, we have raised money for Playground by the Sound, Darien Little League, Post 53, the Center for Hope, Darien youth lacrosse and a special organization that is part of the foundation called JR's Ray of Hope that helps families here in Darien who are going through a medical crisis."
The JR Forever Walk raised $15,000 which Schoen said was then split between the Challenger League and JR's Ray of Hope.
"We are absolutely thrilled to be able to do this. Thank you for your fantastic support and we know that challenger will be making everyone here happy for a long time to come," Schoen said in the statement.
"We are honored and very thankful to have our Challenger Program recognized by the JR Schoen Memorial Foundation as a deserving beneficiary of their funding this year. Their donation will allow us to take our program to the next level and provide us the opportunity to make a difference in these wonderful children's lives," the statement said.