Major League Baseball is teaming up with Autism Speaks (www.autismspeaks.org), the world’s leading autism science and advocacy organization, in a league-wide effort to recognize Autism Awareness Month in April. All 30 MLB Clubs will raise awareness for the disorder during one home game in April, or on another date during the regular season. Many of the MLB autism awareness games throughout the league will provide special opportunities and a safe, friendly environment for families and individuals affected by autism. Working with Autism Speaks or other autism awareness organizations, many Clubs will recognize local families during pre-game ceremonies, and members of the autism community will participate in various traditional baseball activities, including throwing out the first pitch, singing the National Anthem, announcing “Play Ball!,” singing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame,” or performing “God Bless America.”
Autism affects many fans and members of the baseball family. Autism is a general term used to describe a group of complex developmental brain disorders – autism spectrum disorders – caused by a combination of genes and environmental influences. These disorders are characterized, in varying degrees, by communication difficulties, social and behavioral challenges, as well as repetitive behaviors. An estimated one in 59 children in the U.S. is on the autism spectrum.
Turtle Wing Foundation, whose mission is “helping children with learning challenges in rural areas achieve their full potential”, is once again partnering with area high school baseball and softball programs to hold autism awareness games starting now and throughout the month of April. The teams who have volunteered to participate include (home teams in bold):
· Flatonia baseball vs. Brazos – occurred March 22
· Yoakum baseball vs. Nixon/Smiley – March 26
· La Grange softball vs. Caldwell – March 26
· Schulenburg baseball & softball vs. Rice – April 2
· La Grange baseball vs. Bellville – April 2
· Weimar softball vs. Louise – April 2
· Shiner baseball & softball vs. Brazos – April 5
· Hallettsville baseball vs. Bloomington – April 9
· Fayetteville baseball vs. Flatonia – April 9
· Columbus baseball vs. Ganado – April 15
· Sacred Heart/Hallettsville softball vs. St. Paul/Shiner – April 12
· Yoakum softball vs. Poth – April 15
· Sacred Heart/Hallettsville baseball vs. Our Lady of the Hills – April 16
Local students will be honored with the opportunity to throw out the first pitch. Information on autism and the foundation’s work will be available at the games along with Turtle Wing merchandise being for sale. During the game, Turtle Wing volunteers will throw goodies into the crowd and collect donations towards providing Turtle Wing’s services. The month of awareness activities will wrap on May 4 when Turtle Wing hosts their Jack Hooper Day at the Ballpark and Homerun Derby at the Schulenburg Sports Complex. Baseball is at the heart of the foundation. Jack Hooper, whom the foundation was founded in memory of, loved baseball as does his family. Jack had high functioning autism but through the love and support of his parents and coaches he played baseball just like any kid should have the opportunity to.
Last year Turtle Wing Foundation helped provide Early Intervention and Supplemental Services to over 300 children with thousands more being impacted by Community Education & Advocacy programming. The recipients have all been from Colorado, Fayette, Lavaca and surrounding counties with academic, social-emotional, behavioral and/or developmental needs. To learn more about Turtle Wing Foundation visit www.turtlewingfoundation.org, follow their Facebook page or contact Managing Director, Susie Shank, at 979-505-5090. For more information about MLB Autism Awareness and to check on respective Club dates commemorating the initiative, please visit MLBCommunity.org.