Six summers ago, Baseball Buddies, a summer camp program organized through the Episcopal School of Dallas, was formed to give intellectually and developmentally-challenged students the opportunity to experience a week of sports, fun, and friendship. Created by Hal Hundley from the Class of 2010, the week-long camp meets every June for a jam-packed afternoon of baseball, volleyball, and basketball scrimmages, as well as waterslide adventures, a Home Run Derby, and finally, a World Series Showdown.
Several of the campers from the Notre Dame School come back every summer to reunite with their former coaches and develop new friendships. For the ESD volunteers, organizing activities and running the camp is a tradition that has been passed down from older siblings for nearly five years.
For all participants, participating in the Baseball Buddies program is a winning combination. The ESD students say they get to meet new friends and spend a week of their summer vacation playing sports, while the students from the Notre Dame School develop their confidence and make new friends, too.
“This was my third year working Baseball Buddies, but my family has been helping run it for several years now,” Savannah Crow ’17 explained. “I’ve learned to always keep a positive attitude no matter what’s going on.”
On the last day of this year’s camp, all 15 participants had the privilege to showoff their hitting, throwing, and base running skills in front of a packed house. But as rewarding as the experience is for the Notre Dame students, the ESD volunteers take just as many, if not more, memories away from the activities.
“My two favorite memories were the dance parties with the campers in the gym, and the daily stretching circle that a camper leads each day. They had some good moves I had never seen before,” Tilley Neuhoff ’16 said.
This year’s student volunteers included: Caroline Allday ’16, Gage Barbara ’16, Jack Colonnetta ’15, Savannah Crow ’17, Sydney Helbing ’17, Ella Kelly ’18, David Kerrigan ’16, Jack Kieffaber ’16, Jonathan King ’16, Anna Konradi ’16, Lizzie Neuhoff ’17, Tilley Neuhoff ’16, Claire North ’15,Kyle Staffieri ’17, Asher Wabrek ’16, and Nika Willis ’17.
“My favorite part was being able to spend time with the kids each day and seeing how happy they are with us,” Asher Wabrek, a rising junior at ESD, and first-year volunteer, said. “It’s awesome getting to teach them different activities and then play sports with them.”