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Tuesday, May 3, 2016

'Angels' get a chance to fly

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Angels League organizer Wendy Stacy helps Zack Vaughn put the bat on the ball.
(T-G File Photo by Tracy Simmons)
The beauty of youth sports is that everyone gets a chance to play.

Millions of young athletes dream of making the big leagues, but aren't able to cross that threshold for whatever reason and are eventually denied the chance to compete.

What if someone told you that there was another group of kids that simply dream of getting on the field, but in the past have been denied an opportunity even that simple?

Athletics for all

We interact with children facing disabilities every day, and while you may not think of them as sports fans or athletes at first glance, they'd say differently.

Shelbyville's Angels League was started last spring by Wendy Stacy, a special education assistant who works with special needs children.

"I was reading a book about a girl with Down Syndrome, and all she wanted to do was play basketball," Stacy explained. "After reading that book, I set my mind to putting this league together so the kids could play. Every child deserves the same opportunity, and all they want is to be included like every other child."

Helping hand

She first contacted Sylvia Pinson, Shelbyville Parks and Recreation Director, who has been supportive of the effort.

"I get excited because Parks and Recreation is for everyone," said Pinson. "We have always been a community connector, and connecting all the individuals in our community with an increased quality of life through organized sports programs is our middle name."

This increased quality of life doesn't just mean the joy of inclusion for Angels athletes. Angels develop motor and social skills, and establish physical activity and confidence through participating in the program.

Growth wanted

Stacy is hoping that people will take notice of the league, and more participants and volunteers will come forward.

"I know some parents are concerned about bringing their children out to play," Stacy said. "I urge them to come watch a game, and even let their kids try it. There is no pressure, and I can assure you there's no safer or more fun field to be on."

"The volunteers we've receive have been amazing," said Stacy. "And of course, we are always looking for sponsors in hopes to get our own field one day."

"No matter what you have to offer -- time, money, expertise or equipment -- here's a cause that's super-easy to get behind, and one whose time is well overdue," said Tracy Simmons, parent of Angels athlete Margie Simmons.

When and how

The Angels play at the H.V. Griffin Park Babe Ruth fields on Saturday mornings, but are hoping to have some evening games as well this season. Stacy hopes that soccer and basketball Angels Leagues can also become a reality in the near future.

If you are interested in signing up or volunteering the Angels League signups will be held on Tuesday, March 20 at 6:30 p.m. in the upstairs room at the Recreation Center. If you are not able to make it to the signups, you can contact Stacy at wendyrstacy@gmail.com.