Giving all kids the chance to play

As Carma Brown watched her younger brother grow up, she noticed there weren’t many opportunities for kids with developmental and other disabilities to participate in organized sports.

Giving all kids the chance to play

Cody and Lyndsay were Challenger Baseball ‘buddies’ throughout the years, here with Carma celebrating the nonprofit’s 20th anniversary alumni game.

So when she learned about Challenger Baseball, a Little League program for individuals ages 8-21 with special needs, she wanted to help provide the experiences her brother didn’t get to have.

Fun, safe, and welcoming to everyone

Brown first got involved more than 23 years ago, not long after she joined Home Loan Insurance in Grand Junction, Colorado. “This is an awesome and safe experience for everyone,” said Brown, the personal lines manager for Home Loan. “When you see the magic that takes place on the field, you can’t help but be inspired to do everything you can for these kids.”

Challenger Baseball player Isabella Jacobson with players from local Fruita High School.

Today, she is the director of Challenger’s Grand Junction division, which has grown to eight teams and an average of 90 players each year—one of whom is the daughter of Kelli Hamilton, a close friend of Brown who also helps manage the program.

 

‘When you see the magic that takes place on the field, you can’t help but be inspired to do everything you can for these kids.’

—Carma Brown, personal lines manager, Home Loan Insurance

 

A strong ‘buddy’ system

It’s about more than just the players, though. Local college and high-school athletes—more than 800 in all—partner with participants to help them during eight weeks of games. And with everything at a standstill right now due to the global health situation, Brown still hopes to keep all the participants engaged.

“We’re doing a player spotlight each week on our Facebook page,” Brown said. “These local athletes get a lot out of this program, too, and they want to help.”

Giving all kids the chance to play 2

The Challenger Baseball buddy system is core to the success of the program, creating lifelong friendships between players.

Her own company has been a big supporter as well.

“Home Loan Insurance is synonymous with donations and volunteering,” Brown said. “Our owner is an example of what it means to be a true community ambassador. We are encouraged to give back right in the employee handbook.”

That dedication to community has earned Brown and the agency a 2020 Make More Happen Award. The award typically includes a donation of $5,000 and the opportunity to win another $5,000 through engagement on social media; however, in light of the current health and economic challenges across the country, Liberty Mutual and Safeco are donating the full $10,000 immediately to Challenger Baseball on behalf of Home Loan Insurance.

Challenger Players and their families were invited to their own private meet and greet and viewing of the Air Force Blue Angels air show. Zach was a challenger player when he was younger and is now a coach!

Long-lasting impact

Of course, the program goes well beyond “play”—it improves the lives of participants off the field, too.

“I have seen kids become accepted in ways that weren’t quite happening before,” Brown said. “Several of our players have been crowned kings and queens for homecoming and prom, they’ve become managers for sports teams at high schools and colleges. Challenger is just one hour a week, but the impact truly can last a lifetime.”

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