Advocacy in Action: Hopebridge BCBA Kira Witte Builds Community Through Baseball
August 30, 2022
August 30, 2022
From kiddie soccer matches and driveway basketball games, to softball tournaments and nonstop football on TV, sports are a big part of many families’ lives. Unfortunately, the “typical” options for athletics do not often cater to individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) or other special needs. Hopebridge Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) Kira Witte set out to change that.
“I’ve always had a love for the game of baseball, growing up playing every summer. I realized kids with special needs in our community didn’t have a whole lot of opportunities to discover that same passion,” said Kira. “Special Stars Baseball Clinic gives kids with all types of special needs a chance to try out a team sport and get a feel for the ins and outs of the game, without being judged, turned away or the requirement to commit to an entire league.”
We’re all about expanding access and opportunities to children with autism and other developmental disorders, and it’s especially exciting when we get to see our Hopebridge Heroes extend that mission outside of our center walls.
Kira joined Hopebridge nearly six years ago as a Registered Behavior Technician (RBT) in Ft. Wayne, Ind., and during that time, she launched a free, one-day baseball skills clinic for children ages 5 to 15 years old within the autism and special needs communities. The skills sessions include practice of basic baseball fundamentals, such as throwing, catching, fielding, batting and base-running, as well as life skills like teamwork and cooperation. In addition to skill-building, the kids find comradery and an immense amount of fun!
The inclusive clinic’s biggest highlights are always the all-star game and awards ceremony, and it’s easy to see why. During the game, kids get to put all their newfound skills to use, and the ceremony leaves them beaming with pride as they accept their well-deserved medals.
What started with 19 participants in 2019 has now grown to nearly 50 budding baseball players, maxing out the registration and spanning across two fields at the World Baseball Academy, which includes a new, fully adaptive turf field.
“The clinic was so well-organized, and the kids had so much fun! Lots of smiles today!” said a grandparent of one of the participants on Facebook.
The 2022 event was the first clinic for the majority of this year’s athletes, though some of the returning players recognized each other and were able to reconnect, if only for the day. Wheelchairs were no barrier, as the event offered opportunities for all abilities.
In addition to their awards, participants took home Hopebridge backpacks full of goodies.
As exciting as it was for the children and families, the 2022 Special Stars Baseball Clinic will leave a lasting effect on Kira, too. She shared some of her takeaways from the day with us:
“As I reflect on another year that has come and gone, I can’t help but to realize how fast time moves around us. Life is all about taking everything in and remembering the moments that mean so much. This event definitely holds a special place in my heart.
“I took some time on Saturday to just sit and watch. I stopped thinking about what needed to be organized in the next tent, stopped thinking about how much longer I had until the next announcement, and just watched. I watched a little boy run to first base, with nothing but pure joy on his face. I watched a kiddo in a wheelchair being pushed to reach the ball. I watched a volunteer give a high five to a boy who hit the ball so hard that it cleared the pitcher’s mound.
“I slowed down enough to take it all in and it was one of those moments I wish I could freeze in time,” said Kira.
Once a “little idea” Kira never thought possible, Special Stars has turned into an incredible event that has connected so many people in the community. It’s the type of initiative that leads to volunteers having just as much fun as the kids.
“If you have an idea to do something to make our community better, go for it! Work hard, put in the time, and the rest will fall into place. Chances are, there are people who will believe in the magic of your idea and will help you fight to make it something incredible,” said Kira, whose big goal includes opening participation opportunities to adults, as well as children.
Are you looking to make an impact in your community or bringing your talents and creativity to open more opportunities within an underserved area? At Hopebridge, we are always looking for more people to add to our team of superheroes to provide applied behavior analysis (ABA) services and more for the children we serve. To continue your career in a job that makes a difference, view our open positions in locations across the country.
*Informed consent was obtained from the participants in this article. This information should not be captured and reused without express permission from Hopebridge, LLC.
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