Amputee softball games benefit camp for children with prosthesis
The Wounded Warrior Amputee Softball Team played a three-game series at Cranston Stadium this past weekend to help raise proceeds for their annual camp for children with prosthesis.
The team, which was created six years ago, has traveled all over the country playing only able-bodied teams. While all of the players have lost a limb or even two in some cases, it has not stopped them from winning approximately 67 percent of their games.
The WWAST took on a Rhode Island celebrity all-star team on Friday night featuring several former MBL players, such as David and Mike Stenhouse. Despite facing off against many other powerhouse hitters, the WWAST finished with a respectable but heartbreaking final score of 17-16. Trailing far behind for most of the game, the WWAST came just one run shy of closing a 10 run lead in the bottom of the seventh.
“The first six innings was a combination of the rain, the cold, they didn’t get any batting practice, not much throwing practice and we had the long opening ceremonies and they just froze up,” event organizer and Chairman Norman Harrison said. “They just warmed up in that last inning. That’s the caliber of play that they usually do.”
For the past two years, Harrison, a New Hampshire resident, has worked with others to make the event possible. Although he’d already helped put on a game in his own state, Harrison wanted to bring the game to his childhood home.
Harrison’s passion and involvement for the game sparked in 2011 when he watched one of the WWAST’s first games televised over ESPN. Being the father of a now 46-year-old quadriplegic, Harrison was excited about children like his son being able to watch games like this.
“When he was growing up there was nothing like this for him to see and think he could do,” Harrison said.
Each year for the past five years, the team has helped to host a kid’s camp for 20 children between the ages of 8-12 who are either missing a limb or have had an amputation to learn the game of softball. Campers gain skills in hitting, running and fielding, but they’re also mentored by players who understand what they are going through first-hand.
“It’s much more than a softball camp,” Executive Director Dennis Wince said. “It teaches them a lot life lessons and it also emphasizes our motto, ‘Life without a limb is limitless.’”
Children who are able to attend the camp take a lot away from it according to Kate Mulholland, who’s son Noah attended in 2015.
“What he loved was making friends who also had prosthesis,” Mulholland said. “He had never seen a kid like that before.”
The camp also gave him the confidence to join other sports teams, like track and field.
“He feels like a normal kid and he says, ‘I want to show people that I can do this,” Mulholland said. “His goal is to be in the Boston Marathon.”
Saul Bosques, one of the original founding members of the team, said the connections made between the players and the campers are lasting ones. Each year, many of the campers come out to see the team play and catch up with the players.
Mulholland said her son is particularly close with Josh Wege, who even after the camp ended, has taken them both out to lunch and paddle boarding on separate occasions.
The camp is made possible thanks to donations from companies and sponsors, as well as spectators. More than 85 percent of donations have supported programs that help Wounded Warrior Amputees, amputee children and medical research, according to Harrison.
Apart from these beneficiaries, the team has also been rewarding towards the players as well. Despite being able to travel all over the country and even the Virgin Islands at one point, the players also develop close relationships amongst themselves.
“You have sympathy from so many people who want to try to understand the situation, but having empathy from the team is completely different,” newcomer Heather Carter said. “Everybody has been through some phase of the same situation, relearning, adapting and overcoming issues.”
The WWAST lost their second game of the series on Saturday to the Rhode Island National Guard 20-13, but was able to pull out a win against the Tabor-Franchi Softball Team 19-10.