Wounded Warrior Amputee Softball Team™ Hosts
Kids Camp for Children With Amputations, Missing Limbs
LOUISVILLE, KY (June 4, 2014) –Before deploying to Afghanistan, former U.S. Marine Josh Wege played softball six nights a week. But when a roadside bomb took both of his legs in 2009, he wondered if he’d ever walk, let alone play softball again. Thanks to the miracle of 21st-century prosthetics, the Wounded Warrior Amputee Softball Team™ recruited Wege and changed his life. This June, Wege and his WWAST teammates will do the same for children who are also missing limbs.
From June 9–13, 20 children with amputations or missing limbs will attend the second Wounded Warrior Amputee Softball Team Kids Camp at Lyndon Recreation Association in Louisville, Ky. Veterans who gave so much for our country in combat will give back even more as they teach 14 boys and six girls from 11 states how to play softball in spite of their physical challenges. The week will culminate with a game between the 20 kids preceding the Louisville Bats game on Friday, June 13 at Louisville Slugger Field.
“Since we started touring in 2011, we’ve been inviting young, local amputees to serve as batboys and batgirls at our games across the country,” said WWAST Coach David Van Sleet. “You wouldn’t believe the positive impact a single game can make on them. To have a full five days to work with and inspire these kids – kids who are at such an impressionable age – is one of the most amazing opportunities we could have asked for.”
The camp will consist of daily clinics during which WWAST players and coaches will teach the kids all aspects of softball, from hitting, running and catching, to team-play and sportsmanship. While the clinics will cover the basics, these are no ordinary lessons.
“Suffering a life-altering injury is traumatic and scary, there’s no doubt about that,” said Van Sleet. “But it’s our mission to show people that life-altering doesn’t have to mean life-ending. It’s still possible to follow your passions after an injury. You just have to take a different approach. And that’s what our guys are here to teach these kids.”
By “different approach,” Van Sleet alludes to his team’s unique style of play, a creative adaption the wounded veterans had to make in order to continue playing softball. Campers can learn from seasoned WWAST players like Greg Reynolds, a left-arm amputee who has learned how to one-handedly catch a pop-fly, toss off his glove and throw the ball home in one fluid motion, or from Josh Wege, a double-amputee who can chase down a grounder on two prosthetic legs.
The WWAST Kids Camp idea came from Susan Rodio, a longtime WWAST volunteer. Rodio noticed what a positive influence the team had on young amputees and decided to take it a step further.
“It just seemed like a natural fit to further our mission of educating and inspiring the public,” said Rodio. “What better group to inspire than these kids who face some of the same challenges as our players. Another plus we discovered in the first year of our camp was the way the kids and their families all bonded with each other – they had so much in common because of the obstacles they have faced. It was heartwarming to witness as they realized they are not alone.”
Rodio, who is now the WWAST Kids Camp director, decided to move the camp to Louisville after hosting the inaugural event in Orlando, Fla. The move was made in part because it’s the home of Louisville Slugger, the WWAST’s first sponsor and equipment supplier. Louisville Slugger is providing equipment and support for the camp and leads a host of Louisville-based sponsors of the week’s events, including Lyndon Recreation Association; Louisville Bats; Kosair Charities; Kentucky Prosthetics & Orthotics; Toby Tours; Chubby Ray’s; Kentucky Kingdom; Incredible Dave’s; Churchill Downs; Kentucky Derby Museum, Sysco Foods; Tumbleweed Restaurants; Lyndon Elks; The Home Depot; Embassy Suites; Kaufman, Stigger & Hughes; Fast Signs; IPA Foundation; Enterprise Rent-a-Car; Warrior Empowerment Foundation of Louisville; Hitching Post Tack Shop; ValuMarket; Functional Amputee Support Team; Doe-Anderson; Wally Lethgo; Jennifer Long; and Taylor Hankins.
The WWAST Kids Camp is also made possible by generous donations the team has collected while on its three-year, nationwide softball tour. Large national corporations have also contributed to the camp, including InDyne – the premier sponsor of the inaugural Kids Camp and a platinum sponsor again this year – Ӧssur, Aon, Baden Sports and Phiten.
“Life without a limb is limitless. That’s our motto.” said Van Sleet. “Thanks to these incredible veterans, our sponsors and our fans, we’ve been able to spread that message for a little over three years now. The first Kids Camp in Orlando last year was remarkable. We expect it to be even better in Louisville this year.”
The Wounded Warrior Amputee Softball Team™ (WWAST) is a charitable organization whose mission is to raise awareness, educate and inspire the public about the strength and resiliency of America’s wounded warriors. The team was created in March, 2011 and is comprised of veteran and active-duty military that lost limbs while serving in the military. WWAST travels the country playing able-bodied softball teams and is sponsored by Louisville Slugger, Ossur, Armed Forces Foundation and United States Specialty Sports Association, along with other major corporations. You can find more information about WWAST and its Kids Camp at www.thewwast.org.
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