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The Dream Team Foundation in Lancaster is seeking for participants as it kicks off the sixth year of providing sports opportunities for special needs children in Lancaster County.
Founded in 2007, the Dream Team Foundation is a completely free program for special needs children ages 6 to 21 to experience organized team sports, including baseball, basketball and bowling. The foundation achieved non-profit status in 2009 and all activities are provided at no cost to participants through local sponsorships and an annual fundraiser held at Lancaster Super Speedway.
With funding and community support firmly in place, Dream Team Foundation President Diana Knight said all they need now are participants.
“We sent out about 400 applications to eligible participants, and so far we’ve only gotten 12 back,” she said. “And we do know we’ll have some latecomers, but in the past we’ve had anywhere from 100 to 125 participants for the season, so we really just want to get the word out about who we are and what we do.”
In addition to the sports, the foundation also takes participants to community events, such as trips to the movies, Each year they hold a Christmas party complete with a visit from Santa. Participants also ride in the annual Lancaster Christmas parade, and big celebrations are held to start and end each season, which typically runs from August to May. Two years ago, the program was expanded to include special needs adults in Lancaster County.
“This is a wonderful opportunity for these children or older people to do something they haven’t done before,” said Dream Team Foundation board member Julie Barton.
“Some of them may think they can’t do anything like this, but we have made accommodations for everyone to participate, even if they are in a wheelchair. And year after year we see this boost the confidence of these kids, because once they get out there and see that they can do it, they are eager to try other new things. They get trophies and awards just like any team would and we have seen that they are hooked after just one time of being out there.”
Barton said the foundation has revamped the program this year and improved organization and coordination between the many volunteers that make the program a success.
“With anything like this, the best way to learn is through trial and error,” she said. “We think that folks will be pleased with the changes we’ve made.”
The only requirement of participants is a medical release from their doctor stating that it is ok for them to take part in the activities.
“That’s something else we want to make sure that people understand,” Barton said. “They don’t have to have a physical, which would cost money. They only need a signed release from their doctor saying it’s ok to participate, which is free. We don’t require anything of anyone that would cost any money at all.”
Uniforms for the teams are provided free of charge, along with sports equipment and snacks that are provided after each game.
The celebration cookouts for participants and their families held at the beginning and end of the season are also free.
“We did send the applications out at a different time than we have in years past, so that might have something to do with it,” Knight said. “We will be sending them out again and hopefully we will get some people signed up. We just don’t want anyone who is interested to miss out on this opportunity.”
For more information about the Dream Team Foundation, or to find out how to get an application, contact Knight at (803) 287-7636 or Barton at (803) 416-6539.
The Dream Team Foundation can also be contacted by email at email@example.com.