The Carpinteria Valley Little League Challenger League held their annual Fans in the Stands and Buddy Appreciation Day on May 18, at El Carro Park. The stands were filled with family members and friends who had come out to support special needs players on the Challengers team. At the heart of the celebration was the Superstars game, when players from the CVLL Dodgers and Diamond Backs teams joined the Challengers on the field to serve as buddies. The buddies encourage and support the Challengers in an inclusive peer-to-peer program that facilitates friendships and learning. Each Saturday during the season, different coaches from CVLL volunteer to bring players from their team to participate. “We always look forward to Saturdays. It’s a great day,” said Staci Silva whose son Ryan has been on the team for several years.
Carpinteria Unified School District special education teacher Cindy Rief who is the Challengers team manager, has been directing this program since she founded it seven years ago. “This league is my heart and soul,” said Rief. “I love the connection I have with the kids and the families and that so many of them have played for years.” This year, there are about a dozen Challengers players and in other years Rief has had as many as 20, ranging in ages from 5 to mid-20s. “It is always a new adventure with a new group of challenges and rewards. My goal is to have two teams divided by skill level and age, if possible.”
For more information on CVLL Challengers League, contact Cindy Rief at firstname.lastname@example.org.