Second annual Buddy Baseball All Star game for special need kids

'These parents model a lesson of acceptance and kindness that will make their children better adults and leaders.'

Mordechai Sones ,

Second annual Buddy Baseball All Star game
Second annual Buddy Baseball All Star game
Mendi Hechtman

"Friendship Circle Central Jerusalem" has worked to unite Jerusalem organizations that cater to children with special needs.
For the second annual Buddy Baseball All Star game of the year, over 60 children, some with T frames and others in wheelchairs, participated in a game coached by Dean Klassman of Chicago.

Klassman, a financial services businessman who has in his spare time organized Buddy Baseball programs for children with disabilities in Chicago for the past 18 years, flew in especially from Chicago to enjoy the fruits of his Jerusalem dream.

It was a rare scene to behold. So many children and over 100 volunteers at Kraft Stadium joined together in an activity that brought together people of all levels of ability.

Guest of honor MK Orly Levy expressed the feelings of achievement these kids experience doing something they never dreamed capable of. Jerusalem city council member, Fleur Hassan-Nahoum inspired the crowd to remember that "the focus should always be on a person's abilities, not their disabilities".

"Too often, one reads of how they children with disabilities struggle with their challenges," noted a spectator who was at last year's All Star game. "It was with great joy that today I saw a child who was last year wheelchair-bound and this year, able to walk alone!"

Klassman led a game full of spirit and passion together with his wife Leslie and teen coach Avraham Gestetner, at the end of which he presented medals and a baseball to each player.

"We left the game feeling we had found our second home," commented Penina, co-director of Aleh, Jerusalem. "I have never seen the children so happy at a social activity the way they were today. We were VIPS - from the game all the way to the BBQ that followed it. Friendship Circle Central Jerusalem is a real asset to the quality of life in Jerusalem."

Debbie Berkowicz, mother of Yossi, was particularly moved when the parents of Yossi's Buddy Volunteer at the game approached her and expressed a wish to take hero Yossi out to dinner.

"When I heard this," noted Chanie Canterman, Director the FC Central Jerusalem, "I was overjoyed. This was a clear indicator that the message of Buddy Baseball had reached way beyond the sports field and baseball diamond. Friendships with people with unique challenges is a win/win both for the FC participants and the volunteers, and these parents were modelling a lesson of acceptance and kindness that will make their children better adults and leaders.

"Special thanks to Kraft Stadium for clearing time in their busy schedule to accommodate an entire season of Buddy Baseball this summer for FC Jerusalem," said Canterman.

Photos: Chaya Rosenberg Vance and Mendi Hechtman