Kids of Courage provides opportunity for sick, disabled kids
By Ben Platt / MLB.com | 08/16/10 10:00 AM ET
Children and counselors from Kids of Courage enjoyed the Angels game on Sunday. (Ben Platt)
ANAHEIM — Among a sea of red shirts and hats on Sunday, normally seen at Angel Stadium, there was a large section of bright green shirts worn by more than 330 campers and caregivers from the organization Kids of Courage, which serves seriously ill and disabled kids. The group takes children on trips around the country (without their parents) where they have a chance to interact with other children and generally just have fun.
“We love giving the children an opportunity to just act like regular children,” said Ari Adlerstein, the organization’s executive director, who created Kids of Courage six years ago while in college and has continued run the New York-based charity while recently completing law school. “Here at Angel Stadium, the organization has bent over backwards to accommodate us. The children love baseball, the children love games. Sports and baseball are a unifying aspect for all these children. They all love it.”
So the 150 kids in wheelchairs, traveling with ventilators, feeding tubes, oxygen tanks and other medical apparatus, came to the stadium with medical support from the Angels’ emergency medical technicians, but more important, the vast medical support that Kids of Courage provides. This is done through an all-volunteer group of doctors, pediatricians, EMTs, nurses and counselors, who accompany the kids throughout the organization’s week-long Summer Adventure 2010, during which the kids will also visit Knotts Berry Farm and Disneyland. Should a medical emergency arise, the organization’s trained group of volunteers can quickly handle it to ensure the safety of the child.
“We assume it’s the right of every child to go to a baseball game,” said Dr. Stuart Ditchek, the organization’s co-founder and medical director. “But when you’re a chronically sick kid, and you need oxygen to come to the game, it’s not your God-given right — it’s your Kids of Courage-given right. The logistics and the medical logistics are quite sophisticated. We have a ratio, 1-to-1, 2-to-1 and often 3-to-1, counselors to every child. We have in the park with us paramedics, physicians, critical-care nurses — so anything that comes up, we take care of immediately.”
On this day, the kids enjoyed themselves immensely, and the volunteers also enjoyed the game between the Angels and Blue Jays. The site of a youngster wearing a baseball cap for the first time, eating a hot dog and watching a baseball game, brought joy to everyone involved.
“They are having a fantastic time, taking over the terrace level, so to speak, said Lindsay McHolm, the Angels’ community relations coordinator, who helped set up the day. “They are out there cheering. There are a lot of the kids here for their first ballgame, they have their faces painted. I’ve heard there are Yankees and Mets fans among them, but I haven’t seen them. I know the ones out there are very happy in their red Angels hats and green shirts.
“We are very, very proud to do this for Kids of Courage, and this is an experience they haven’t gotten in very many other places. To provide them the ability to come out, enjoy a game and just to be a kid, and for the adults with them to enjoy the game, it’s a great experience for everyone involved, and we’re very proud to help them.”
“I love watching all the kids just sitting with each other and just enjoying the game as a group,” said Adlerstein. “They’re just so comfortable, even with their feeding tubes and wheelchairs, just cheering on the players, doing the wave and for the rest of the game they’re going to be loud and having an amazing time. A lot of them don’t know much about baseball, but today, they’re here to have a good time. Today they’re here to smile.”
Ben Platt is a national correspondent for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.