To the children that play in the Challenger Little League, playing baseball is not about winning and losing, but making friends and being accepted. They love the game...because it is a game.
That is why Dom Cambareri, Challenger Little League Director, wants more for these children with special needs. Because of local little league games using the fields, the Challenger league cannot play games until later on in the summer, when the sun is hotter.
Cambareri has a plan to build an all-inclusive outdoor multi sports and wellness complex at Carrier Park in East Syracuse, constructed primarily to grow the Challenger Little League. He calls it the 'Challenger Field of Dreams' because of what it will do for not only the league, but the kids themselves.
"We'll be able to start in the spring and end in the fall," Cambareri, who has two kids with special needs of his own, says. "That would allow the league itself to grow to a proportion where we're not only serving special needs children, but special needs adults as well."
Cambareri says the new fields would make Challenger Little League the biggest league in the world, but more than that, it is about allowing anyone who wants to play having a place to do so. For the parents, it is refreshing for their kids to find an activity that allows them to simply be themselves.
"It's a place where he can go," Jennifer Savastino, whose stepson has special needs, says. "If he's having a bad day and if he's feeling overstimulated, I can take him there and he can be himself."
When arriving at the field, the children are greeted with smiles, a symbol of acceptance that many do not normally see on a daily basis.
"I was so sad because my son didn't have kids that accepted him," Sonya Miller, whose son has special needs, says. "He didn't have friends, and when he came to Challenger he had kids that just loved him, and it didn't matter what his disability was."
It is that camraderie and love of the game which drives Cambareri's league.
"I just like being with my friends," Brittaney Deltoro, a Challenger Little Leaguer, says. "Playing out there, oh my God, no matter what disability I have, I can do it."
If the "Field of Dreams' comes to fruition, Deltoro will be joined by hundreds of more kids who play simply because they love the game.