All kids up to bat

By 
  • May 25, 2007
{mosimage}TORONTO - No one sat out on the side lines during a baseball mini-camp for 125 special needs students.

The Toronto Blue Jays and the Halton Catholic District School Board sponsored the half-day event at the Rogers Centre May 16.
All students played in an adapted baseball game, felt the crack of the bat at the hitting station and threw out base runners at the throwing station.

Blue Jays players Vernon Wells, Jason Frasor and Sal Fasano took turns pitching to the student batters. Several mascots were on hand to cheer the students on, including Ace from the Blue Jays, Carlton the Bear from the Toronto Maple Leafs, The Raptor from the Toronto Raptors and Stripes from the Hamilton Tiger Cats.

Just spending time with other kids is an important part of this day, said Danielle Piantoni, special education teacher at St. Raphael Elementary School in Burlington.

“I think it’s so they know they can do something that they feel good about their athleticism,” she said.

“My favourite part of today is it’s so much fun,” said David Couture, a Grade 7 student with autism at St. Raphael.

“I made a new friend — a Blue Jay,” said Couture.

Each student came to the mini-camp with a peer mentor. Couture brought his classmate Bradley Bedford.

“When I saw him smile I thought this guy is cool, he’s nice (and) I’d like to help him out during the year,” said Bedford.

During the camp Bedford helped Couture place both hands on the bat and showed him where to run.

“I learned that everybody can play any sport and that they should all get opportunities,” said Bedford.

The event came together after Blue Jays’ fan Patrick Mayne, principal at St. Christopher School, saw a similar event in Detroit where kids with and without special needs teamed up for a sports camp.

While the board has been sponsoring similar events, this is the first time it’s been held at a professional sports facility.

“We provide for these students a setting as normal as possible in our schools. They’re not segregated,” said Halton director of education Lou Piovesan.

He hopes all students remember this mini-camp in the years to come.

“It has to be a memorable experience just watching the excitement on their faces.”

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