By Jason Micallef
I’ll start with a quick family introduction. My wife Amy and I are the proud parents of three boys: Cole (2), Shane (6) and our oldest son Luke (9). Luke just wrapped up his third season with the Beautiful People Baseball League and is eagerly awaiting the start of fall soccer. It’s hard to describe to those who are not parents of children with special needs. I will do my best to lay it out.
When Luke was born on August 28th, 2003, the sports dreams began almost simultaneously. I remember the first time he threw a teething cracker, the thoughts, “He is going to be a quarterback or maybe a pitcher,” frequently ran through my mind during the first year of his life. When I witnessed Luke’s first seizure, those dreams were kind of brushed to the side. At age 4 we signed Luke up for soccer here in Warwick with hopes that he might somehow take interest. He ran onto the field no problem, but it was obvious he wasn’t going to keep up with most of the other children, both mentally and physically. For the next couple of years Luke would watch his younger brother Shane play soccer, baseball and basketball. Luke would ask me questions like, “Why do you and Shane always play basketball?” As a Dad, I heard, “You don’t play sports with me.” This would mentally drain me.
Now, Luke is part of the Beautiful People League. Because of this, I can get him to play catch with us and there is a reason associated with why we are doing what we are doing. I can tell him, “Let’s get ready for Sunday’s game.” I show him how to stand at the plate, etc. Luke looks forward to seeing his classmates outside of the school environment. The Beautiful People League is his thing. It’s his time to have the family come and watch him do something. Luke’s seizure disorder is a road block for him, but Beautiful People is a step in finding another route to where we want to go. For this we are all very grateful.
by Melinda Engel
I just wanted to take a moment to talk about persistence and the benefits of sticking situations out, even when they become challenging. If you are new to Beautiful People, if you are a player, parent, family member or volunteer – welcome. Various studies have shown the benefits of organized sports for children with or without various disabilities. Any child can benefit through sports. Sports can help a child with feelings of accomplishment, confidence, socialization and improvements in overall physical health. My name is Melinda and I am the proud parent of BP Phillies player – Ian. Over time, I have watched my Son progress in all of these areas. However, most importantly – he is having fun! I am also experiencing improvements myself as a parent. These Sunday games help me not to isolate as much. I get out of the house and into the fresh air. I speak with other adults who share similar issues, concerns and hopes. My Son has just finished his sixth season playing baseball with BP and he has improved greatly in endurance, patience, social skills and baseball! I just hope that I can continue to grow along with him. So, if you are new or have been around a while, I hope you stick around. As a parent I can truly say – it is most definitely worth it!
By Londi Jaramillo
Two of my children are involved in a great organization called Beautiful People. Beautiful People is a non-profit organization based in Wallkill, New York (Orange County) that provides adaptive sports for children and young adults with disabilities.
I found out about Beautiful People when I was at my son Elijah’s yearly meeting to discuss his Individual Education Plan (IEP). You see, Elijah is 9 years old and has multiple disabilities, which include severe developmental delays to learning and to his fine and gross motor skills. During the meeting I broke down in tears (which happen sometimes) because I was frustrated, as Elijah feels left out sometimes when he has difficulty socializing with others his own age. Also, he can’t participate in organized sports like his brothers. He’s eager to play since his brothers are in sports leagues, but he can never play. What do you say to your child when he asks why can’t he play? It broke my heart.
When Roses Blossom
I encouraged my oldest son, Giovanni, to volunteer with Beautiful People as a buddy who helps other children and signed up Elijah for baseball. When we started, I was overwhelmed with happiness. Without this organization, many of these children would never have an opportunity to play sports. These young people are affected by disabilities ranging from autism spectrum to cerebral palsy.
This is now our second season with Beautiful People and Giovanni continues to volunteer on Sundays, and Elijah is back on the field. There is no greater joy in my heart than to watch my children engaged in such wonderful activities, one helping others and one having an opportunity to play. I’m so proud of my two sons and all of the volunteers and players that come out each week to help and play.
by Jim Schalck
Like many of the participants in Beautiful People I too was born with a physical disability, Spina Bifida, which necessitated my using a wheelchair. However, unlike the participants, I grew up in the early to mid 1970’s. Consequently, when I became old enough to participate in organized sports, there was nothing that existed which resembled Beautiful People. But since I was lucky enough to have grown up in Narrowsburg, a small town with many kind people who went out of their way to involve me, I did have an opportunity to “play” Little League. My involvement was limited to throwing out the occasional ceremonial first pitch, keeping score, coaching third base and occasionally getting a chance to hit during team practices. But, to a young kid who grew up loving America’s past time, it seemed like the greatest thing ever. Or at least it was until I made my first visit to a Beautiful People baseball game. The smiles on EVERYBODY’S faces were enough to convince me that this is the greatest thing ever.
So, in closing, I would just like to say to all the volunteers who show up every week to keep those smiles coming, THANK YOU!! Trust me when I tell you that you are creating memories that will last a lifetime.
“Sean is autistic and I would say that the impact the BP has had on Sean was the sense that he can do something that was completely out or the realm of his everyday tasks. It also gives him a place where he is accepted to do anything he tries without criticism. Whether he plays or just watches the players he is part of a team.”
– Larry Fox, grandfather to Sean, Montgomery, NY
“Baseball is fun because I get to run the bases when I get a hit. I like to play shortstop with my buddy Cole. My buddy Jeff helps me with my fielding and throwing. I have made lots of friends at Beautiful People Baseball”
– Nicolas Barnes, age 12
“My son loves playing baseball in the Beautiful People baseball league. It is very well run and has many wonderful volunteers. My son is unable to play baseball in the Little League program with his same age peers due to his autism. He loves playing baseball and Beautiful People gives him an opportunity to do so. I’m not sure who has more fun, my son playing or myself cheering and watching the players react with such joy and enthusiasm!”
– Carolyn Barnes, mother, New Hampton, NY
“We are so lucky to have found Beautiful People – it has given our 6 year old son who lives with autism a chance to participate in a sport with his peers. We, as parents, are thankful for the opportunity to meet other like-minded parents in a safe place where are child’s disability is not an issue. The people who run Beautiful People are fabulous, selfless people- it’s a joy to be in their company! A big “thanks” for the wonderful service you provide!”
– Kristi & Robert Wilson, parents of Jake, Washingtonville, NY
“Having beautiful people in our lives has benefited our family tremendously. My son has had the opportunity to participate in sports activities with other special needs children and it has given him more confidence and better self-esteem. The Beautiful People organization provides families with loving, sensitive and caring individuals who encourage and motivate our children to not be afraid to try new things or be afraid to fail. My son has a new sense of purpose and energy from playing with the other children. He now believes in himself and has the fortitude to be the best he can be. Thank you Beautiful People for this amazing opportunity.”
– Sandra Williams (mother of Michael Grezsik) Chester, NY
“Being a parent of a special need child – Devin is a precious 10 year old autistic boy – I have found myself so many times disappointed by the outcome of what I was hoping would be a great activity/event for my child. This was not what I encountered the minute I had Devin participate to the summer baseball in Wallkill. Everybody and when I say everybody, I really mean it, the special need kids, the volunteers – teenagers and adults, the coaches, Jan and the staff, the parents and the guests, everybody was happy! I was so thrilled to be there that my husband, who works in NYC and just wants to chill on weekends, decided to come and see and he fell in love and decided that yes indeed he could sacrifice his precious Sunday morning time to take Devin to play or I should say “try” to play baseball and cheer for all the other “beautiful” players. It does not happen often in such a stressful society to be in an environment where cheering and congratulating one another takes place simply and beautifully. The name of the organization cannot be more appropriate! A big heartfelt thanks to all who make it happen.”
– Mary Carter, mother to Devin
“I love the way the kids get to have fun doing an activity with their friends, just like any other kid would have fun doing. It makes me feel great to be able to spend time with the kids and other volunteers, the kids are so enthusiastic and every week is full of special surprises for the kids to enjoy.”
– Iris Conques, Volunteer Buddy, Monroe, NY
“I have a lot fun helping the kids play baseball. It is great to see their enthusiasm when they are hitting the ball or in the field. It makes my day!”
– Ryan Parchinski – Volunteer (teen) Buddy, Chester, NY
“I liked being able to help out the kids who needed it. It made me feel great”
– Cole Whitney, teen Buddy Volunteer, Campbell Hall, NY
“The beautiful people organization is fantastic. My son loved being a buddy to the children with disabilities. I loved watching him. The experience opened his eyes and his heart. Everyone in the organization is just wonderful. I am so happy we have become a part of the Beautiful People family.”
– Linda Whitney, Cole’s mother
“Beautiful People has given our family the opportunity to enjoy watching our daughter Lisa (who has Autism) participate in softball. Lisa will get so excited about playing her scheduled game and having her family sit in the stands and cheer her on for a change. She has spent many of hours in the stands watching her brother.”
“Beautiful People also gives our son Matthew the opportunity to help not only his sister, but other children with special needs. He has brought many of his friends to volunteer in the past and I believe exposing all of these children to one another bridges a gap. It is helping the next generation to be open minded and tolerant. Also, they get to see all the special skills and challenges that our children face.”
“The group of people that are involved in organizing and running the games and events are selfless with their time, kindness and patience. I can tell you from first-hand experience as a parent that there is a wonderful feeling knowing that your child is not being scrutinized and is accepted even when their behavior is not “normal”. We are able to let our guard down and enjoy the time with our children and family during these events.”
“My husband Bob, Lisa, Matthew and I could not thank all of the individuals at Beautiful People enough for giving us these wonderful mornings and afternoons that allow Lisa to be in the spotlight.”
– Lynn Hickey, mother to Lisa, Warwick, NY