"Challenger Football & Cheer" – for Special Needs Children
Challenger Programs are sporting activities designed for kids with special needs. When the local Pop Warner Football League considered starting a Challenger Division, they approached Bruce Humiston, Cadence's Director of Sales and Marketing, to see if he would consider being its Director. Bruce was a good candidate for the position because he had previous football experience as the Head Coach of his older son’s youth football team and is the father of a special needs younger son.
According to Bruce, “At first I was skeptical if this idea would work at all. I knew my [special needs] son and I knew he didn’t like change, game conflict, or loud noise. However, after watching a YouTube Video about a distant Challenge Program (Shout Out to Tommy Hindes of Hudson Valley NY; link provided below), I had an immediate change of heart. I saw that the game was adapted to the children in two important ways. First, physical limitations are overcome with the use of “Buddies”. Buddies act as on-field “helpers” for the Challenger participants. For our league, we recruit Buddies from the local youth volunteer organizations and are enormously blessed to have so many willing and good-natured kids who genuinely enjoy helping. Second, I saw that the focus of Challenger football was not centered upon winning or losing, but rather bringing true joy to the children who participate. We don’t keep score but we do have fun with trick plays and some incredible touchdown dances.”
With the help of many parents and volunteers, our program has grown from a handful of Challenger boys and girls to over 30 players and a Cheer Program with 8 participants. This program is undoubtedly a win for everyone involved - Participants get the joys of being with other kids, playing the game, and celebrating their successes; Parents of the players/cheerleaders love seeing their kids having fun while participating in youth sports; and Buddies gain an appreciation for working with and interacting with special needs kids.
Start Your Own Program
The YouTube video included below was produced by ESPN and provides a good visual of the typical games. This video has given many parents the comfort level needed to give it a try. Maybe it will do the same for you too.