In her first at-bat of the game, Kiley connected with the ball and began to round the bases. Parents cheered as she rounded first and made her way towards second. Cheers were more enthusiastic as she rounded second and made her way to third and then to home.
Kiley had hit a home run.
Smiling and cheering for herself, she was greeted by her teammates at home.
While her hit would have been special for an elementary school student, it was especially meaningful for Kiley. She rounded the bases in a wheelchair pushed by her sister Jasia, and because she is deaf, she did not hear the applause. Instead, she saw her teammates and parents using sign language to cheer her on.
But, most importantly, Kiley felt the elation of hitting a
Kiley plays in the "Little Wiffles Challenger League”, which was designed to give children ages 4-10 with all types of disabilities, a chance to play baseball.
For the players, the league is a hit. Kiley spent her week at Reads Collaborative School in West Bridgewater explaining how she was going to be playing baseball with her friends the upcoming weekend.
"She loves it," Sue Harnsby said. "She talks about it all week."
The league was founded five years ago by Meg Fox, who was a special needs teacher in Norton at the time. Feeling a need in town for extra-curricular activities for children with special needs, she took matters into her own hands. Fox contacted Norton Youth Baseball and lobbied for the organization to embrace her idea.
The process did not come without obstacles. Fox surveyed parents in Project Early before presenting before the NYB board.
"I did the survey, then had to present it to the board," she said. "It took a whole year."
Fox eventually got the 'OK' and moved forward with the league. Now, “Little Wiffles” is just an extension of Norton Youth Baseball.
Many of her family and friends joined her in the process,
but her biggest acquisition may have been her daughter, Morgan, who was put in
charge of enlisting "base-buddies" from Norton High School.
For Morgan, now a senior at NHS, finding help hasn't been difficult.
"They are willing to do it," she said of Norton High students who volunteer their time on Saturday mornings. "I don't have to ask them. They love it."
Each player is given one-on-one attention.
"They are amazing," Sue Harnsby said. "They're so good with the kids. The way we were welcomed in was incredible."
When the program started, eight "little wiffles" participated. Now, as many as 30 show up on any given Saturday in the fall or spring.
The program just finished its fall season with a Halloween-themed game, complete with pumpkin-rolling and costumes. There were movie stars, sheriffs and princesses.
The players performed an encore the next day at the Norton
For volunteer Lynn Regan, next spring can't come soon enough.
"All of them bring the most amazing thing to the program," she said. "They're just awesome."