Sertoma Empowers Deaf and Hard of Hearing Youth Baseball Players
August 17, 2016
Every child growing up has unique dreams and aspirations. For some children, these dreams can range anywhere from becoming a fearless fireman, to an ambitious astronaut or a legendary hall of fame baseball player.
For Deaf and Hard of Hearing children in Denver, Colorado, the LoDo Field of Dreams Sertoma Club hosted a special camp to help train and encourage the dreams of children within its community.
This year, the LoDo Field of Dreams Sertoma Club held its 20th annual Denver Field of Dreams baseball camp July 9-10 at the Regency Athletic Complex Baseball Field in Denver, Colorado. Around 40 campers joined in on the fun this year, including 18 volunteer coaches, medical staff and four interpreters.
This camp in particular is special because it is designed to teach young players all about the classic game of American baseball in an intimate way. Around 1-2 players are assigned to individual coaches throughout the day for privatized one-on-one instruction on pitching, catching, throwing and batting.
Galen Graf, the director of the camp for 14 years, has an extensive background in coaching and is truly passionate about working with the campers.
“We do our best to provide quality instruction,” Graf said. “We cover a lot of approaches to the game that many kids haven’t had the opportunity to receive in the past.”
Graf said that being a part of the camp is a very special experience for him, because he is able to witness the camp’s positive impact firsthand.
“It’s all extremely special. You can see it in their facial expressions,” Graf said. “We challenge the kids, and they step up with eagerness and enthusiasm. It’s a pretty neat thing to see.”
Campers between the ages of 7-16 are able to register, and all skill levels are welcomed. The hearing level of the campers also tends to vary, so experienced interpreters are readily available to assist the coaches during their day.
Dale Hand, the secretary of the LoDo Sertoma Club, and a member of Sertoma since 1990, was instrumental in creating the camp. Hand said his favorite part of the camp this year was seeing all of the smiles on the kids’ faces, and watching their skills improve in a short matter of time.
“Some of these campers will come back years later and will be playing on a Little League team,” Hand mentioned. “Even some of the Deaf campers come back to volunteer because they have been so impacted by the camp. It helps change their lives.”
Gary Nelson, the grandfather of Isaac, a ten-year-old camper from Indiana said that his grandson has travelled to the camp for many years now.
“This was Isaac’s third year playing in Sertoma’s camp,” Nelson exclaimed. “He enjoys it. The coaches are outstanding and very helpful with the kids.”
Chelsea Bruha Nichols, a former camper, said that she still can’t describe the full impact that the camp has had on her. Nichols attended one of the first LoDo camps when she was five-years-old.
“I had never met other Deaf kids like me, who also struggled to hear and pronounce the “s” sound. I was used to being judged and made fun of,” Nichols said. “Finally finding a place that allowed me to be accepted made me feel the sense of normalcy I yearned for. I was just a girl that wanted to play baseball, and that was a beautiful thing.”