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Their field of dreams
Su campo de sueños

Their field of dreams

Story by Lisa Quiñónes-Fontanez


“I knew that our children were capable of anything,” said Bronxchester Challenger League founder Lizette Hernández.
“I knew that our children were capable of anything,” said Bronxchester Challenger League founder Lizette Hernández.

On Sun., Jul. 20th, 62 excited children and their families gathered at the Waters Place Little League field to pick up their trophies.

It was the first trophy for many of the kids, and a moment of celebration for their families.

The children are part of the newly created Bronxchester Challenger League – a league specifically for kids with autism. On Saturday, July 19th they played their last game of the 10-game season. The bleachers were packed with proud parents, family and friends. Even Big Ang of VH1’s Mob Wives was among the cheering spectators.

When Lizette Hernández started the Bronxchester Challenger League, she had no idea the kind of impact she would make in the community. She is a proud mother to three children, Devynn, Donovin and Dustin. Donovin has autism, and Hernández knows first hand how few opportunities for extracurricular activities there are in the borough for children with special needs.

When Donovin expressed interest in playing baseball, she searched to find an appropriate league. But there wasn’t anything in the Bronx.

The League is for children aged 4 through 9.
The League is for children aged 4 through 9.

For her son “to play a team sport was a huge thing [and I knew I had] to find a place that was tailored to meet his needs. I knew that if Donovin wanted to play, there had to be other autistic children that wanted to play baseball too,” Hernández said.

And so she founded a Challenger League for kids ages 4 through 9. Through fundraising and corporate sponsorships, Hernández raised enough money so that the program would be of no cost to special needs parents.

With her husband Felix Hernández as coach and her daughter Devynn serving as a “buddy,” the league has become a family labor of love.

And since the Bronxchester Challenger League began, parents say they have felt indebted to Hernández. Raising a child with special needs in a grossly underserviced borough means that programs such as the Challenger League are priceless – both for the children and their families. The young players have them something to look forward to and feel good about. Parents are joined in a judgment-free community. Week after week, parents have approached Hernández after the game with tears in the eyes to express their gratitude.

“It has given him a reason to be excited for the weekend,” said Eddie Valentin of his son’s participation.
“It has given him a reason to be excited for the weekend,” said Eddie Valentin of his son’s participation.

“My intention was to create a space for us to come together and not feel judged or looked at, or have those disgusting stares that we get sometimes when we’re around people who don’t understand,” Hernández said. “Starting this league, I knew that our children were capable of anything. They just need the right environment to try.”

Her work has been highlighted by Bronxnet TV and News 12 The Bronx. And most recently, she was named by NY1 as “New Yorker of the Week.” She was nominated by Eddie Valentín, whose son is in the League. He said he wanted “to give [Hernández] the recognition she truly deserved for tireless and selfless efforts in establishing the Bronx Challenger League.”

“The autism community in The Bronx is lacking in resources. The Bronxchester Challenger League helps in so many ways. It gives children a friendly and understanding environment to be free and play,” Valentín said. “Since [my son] started playing it has given him a reason to be excited for the weekend.”

With 50 kids on the waiting list for the Bronxchester Challenger League, Hernández is already preparing for the 2015 season. The divisions will range from T-Ball to Senior Majors (4 years to 18 years old).

For more information on the League visit http://www.bronxchesterchallengerleague.com.

Su campo de sueños

Historia por Lisa Quinones-Fontanez


“It has given him a reason to be excited for the weekend,” said Eddie Valentin of his son’s participation.
“It has given him a reason to be excited for the weekend,” said Eddie Valentin of his son’s participation.

El domingo, 20 de julio, 62 emocionados niños y sus familias se reunieron en el campo de las Pequeñas Ligas Waters Place para recoger sus trofeos. Era el primer trofeo para muchos de los niños, y un momento de celebración para sus familias.

Los niños son parte de la recién creada Liga Bronxchester Challenger – una liga específicamente para niños con autismo. El sábado, 19 de julio jugaron su último juego de la temporada de 10 juegos. Las gradas estaban llenas con orgullosos padres, familia y amigos. Hasta ‘Big Ang’ de Mob Wives en VH1 se encontraba entre los espectadores.

Cuando Lizette Hernández comenzó la Liga Bronxchester Challenger, no tenía idea de la clase de impacto que haría en la comunidad. Ella es madre de tres niños, Devynn, Donovin y Dustin. Donovin tiene autismo, y Hernández comprende directamente cuan pocas oportunidades extracurriculares hay en el condado para niños con necesidades especiales. Cuando Donovin expresó interés en jugar pelota, ella investigó para encontrar una liga apropiada. Pero no había nada en el Bronx.

Para su hijo “el jugar un deporte en equipo era algo grande, y sabía que tenía que encontrar un lugar que estuviera diseñado para reunir estas necesidades. Sabía que si Donovin deseaba jugar, tenía que haber otros niños autistas que deseaban jugar pelota también”, dijo Hernández.

logowebAsí es que ella se propuso comenzar una Liga Challenger para niños de edades de 4 a 9. A través de recaudaciones de fondos y auspicios corporativos, Hernández reunió suficiente dinero para que el programa fuera sin costo alguno para los padres con necesidades especiales. Con su esposo, Felix Hernández como entrenador y su hija Devynn sirviendo como “amiga”, la liga se ha convertido en una labor de amor familiar.

Desde que la Liga Bronxchester Challengre comenzó, los padres dicen que se sienten en deuda con Hernández. El criar un niño con necesidades especiales en un distrito gravemente desatendido significa que programas como la Liga Challenger no tienen precio – tanto para los niños y sus familiares. Los jóvenes jugadores entonces tienen algo que esperan con ilusión y se sienten bien. Los padres se reúnen en una comunidad libre de juicio. Semana tras semana, los padres se han acercado a Hernández luego del juego con lágrimas en los ojos para expresar su gratitud.

“I knew that our children were capable of anything,” said Bronxchester Challenger League founder Lizette Hernández.
“I knew that our children were capable of anything,” said Bronxchester Challenger League founder Lizette Hernández.

“Mi intención fue crear un espacio para reunirnos y no sentirnos juzgados u observados, o tener esas desagradables miradas que recibimos algunas veces cuando estamos alrededor de personas que no entienden”, dijo Hernández. “El comenzar esta liga sabía que nuestros niños eran capaces de cualquier cosa. Solo necesitan el ambiente correcto para tratar”.

Su trabajo ha sido destacado por Bronxnet TV y News 12 The Bronx. Y más recientemente, fue nombrada en NY1 como “Neoyorquina de la Semana”. Fue nominada por Eddie Valentín, cuyo hijo está en la Liga. El dijo que quería “darle a Hernández el reconocimiento que verdaderamente se merecía por su incansable y desinteresado esfuerzo en establecer la Liga Bronx Challenger”.

“La comunidad autista en el Bronx carece de recursos. En la Liga ‘Bronxchester Challenger’ ayuda de muchas maneras. Le dan al niño un ambiente amistoso y comprensible para ser libre y jugar”, dijo Valentín. “Desde que mi hijo comenzó a jugar le ha dado una razón para estar emocionada por el fin de semana”.

Con 50 niños en lista de espera para la Liga Bronxchester Challenger’, Hernández ya está preparándose para la temporada 2015. Las divisiones variarán desde ‘T-Ball’ hasta Liga de Mayores (4 a 18 años de edad).

Para más información de la Liga visite http://www.bronxchesterchallengerleague.com.

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