Giving Back: Disabled players shoot for stars

Published 11:45 pm Tuesday, November 11, 2014


LULING — In 2008, those in charge of running the St. Charles Parish recreation department decided its Challenger baseball program for those with disabilities was going so well, it would expand its athletic offerings to the disabled.

And so was born the Shooting Stars program.

Shooting Stars is the basketball equivalent to Challenger, which gives mentally and physically challenged youth, from ages 5-18, a chance to compete on the baseball diamond. The Shooting Stars league is set to begin this evening at the Judge Edward Dufresne Community Center in Luling. From next week onward, games will be played on Tuesday nights. 

Games and team composition are tailored to the players’ individual abilities. No score is kept during the games. 

St. Charles Parks and Recreation assistant director Theresa Theriot said the Shooting Stars program had become popular in other states, and when the department wanted to widen its base of activities for the disabled, it seemed natural to adopt it for St. Charles.

“We felt we needed to go even further in what we were doing, because we pride ourselves on offering recreational choices for all of our citizens,” Theriot said.

The league makes use of a buddy system, which enlists youths outside the program without disabilities to help hone the skills of those playing the game.

“We break it down to whatever level of disability someone is working with,” Theriot said. “The buddy system allows a child without a disability to work with a child that has one to help them adopt the sport better.”

Theriot said the experience has been quite rewarding for everyone involved, from the department to the coaches and athletes.

“We’ll see a lot of the same children back year after year,” she said. “They really look forward to it, and that’s a great thing to see.”

The Shooting Stars league is set to run for six weeks. Challenger baseball league holds tryouts in March. 

Another program the parish offers is Camp Shriver, sponsored by the St. Charles Special Olympics, an athletic endeavor for children and adults with intellectual disabilities. There, more than 100 participants play tennis, bocce ball, soccer and flag football before concluding the camp with a medal ceremony. And on Nov. 29, the Hahnville High School girls soccer team will be hosting a soccer camp for those with disabilities at Hahnville’s stadium. 

Shooting Stars will end its season with a party as teammates and competitors can enjoy one another’s company one more time until the league begins anew. 

For more information on any of these programs, the department can be reached at 985-331-3007.