Batter up!

This past Sunday, Eleanor and I went to check out the Dexter Little League therapy at Dexter High School softball field.

It was the hottest day of the entire weekend (90 degrees Farenheit!), but a good number of kids showed up looking forward to playing a few innings. The kids were divided up into two teams – Blue Team and White Team – and every person was given a chance to bat during each inning.

I really liked that the two coaches and the regular helpers emphasized the importance of perfecting technique, such as following through on the swing (at bat) and being sure to touch the bases with your feet as you passed by them on a run.

Often, the person pitching would call out to the person playing first base, then throw the ball to him/her. I could tell it was an exercise they had practiced over and over on previous Sundays; I watched as the player would then proceed to tag the first base with his/her foot, and then turn and throw it back to the pitcher as if they could perform these actions with their eyes closed.

Eleanor and I had a lot of fun encouraging the kids to run to the bases. She was given a spot in between 2nd and 3rd base, and I was positioned by 1st base. I loved being the person to cheer on the recent batter to run to first base, because it’s always the first base in baseball that’s the most entertaining to me. It’s where you really see people spring to action and just full-out sprint to the base. You get to watch as the batter realizes they actually did hit the ball and it’s actually going somewhere, somewhere into the field, and.. oh, they should probably start running..

My favorite moment was at the very end, when a boy named Luke was about to bat the very last pitch. All eyes were on him as he kept showing off a good swing, but no connection to the ball. At the next pitch, he suddenly put his front foot down on the ground, hard, then leaned forward and put his weight into the ball. It worked! The ball connected and went flying off into the field. With that hit, it was a home run, and all the players waiting on the bases were able to finish running around the diamond before heading home for the day. It seemed almost unreal, like an ending you would only see in movies.

At the end of the game, both teams had to line up, shake hands, and tell each other, “Good game.”

During the times when Luke was not at bat, he was playing Center fielder. I kind of wished he could have been able to play Center for his own hit, because I’m sure he would have really loved to run for and catch that ball.

-Millie

Want to check out Dexter Little League? There’s another session next Sunday, June 17th starting at 1:30 PM! The last session will be Sunday, June 24th. Games last approximately 1 hour to 1.5 hours. For more information on therapies, check out the U-M C.S. Mott’s Children’s hospital link to the programs.

Self-Development through Martial Arts

As I was volunteering at the C.S. Mott’s Children’s Hospital Martial Arts Therapy, I learned that martial arts is about mental, physical, and spiritual development.

We began the session by removing our shoes and kneeling onto the floor of the High Point School gym (in Ann Arbor) to join the children, “left knee first, then right knee…” Then, we each placed our hands in front of ourselves, and bent forwards twice – once, as a way to show respect for the instructors, and the second time, as a way to show respect for ourselves.

We had a small group with us that day, but it was a good size to maintain a good pace with every participant and ensure no one was left behind. It was very impressive to see how the instructors held each child accountable for “finishing something that [they] started.” They encouraged the children to persevere through something that seemed difficult. There were many times where a child would say he/she “couldn’t do it” or would become distracted and run away from the task, but the instructors always seemed to be able to pull that child back into the session to complete the exercise. They also emphasized the concept of “good repetitions,” as in striving to always keep in mind the quality of a technique they were using.

A moment that really stood out to me was when the children had to clean the floor mats. The lesson here was “responsibility and self-discipline.” It was simple: if they wanted to use the mats to practice, they were responsible for cleaning and maintaining them. Each child was given a mat to clean and was expected the wipe the mat in a certain way, but only when the instructor gave a count (I believe she said the numbers in Japanese). I thought it was very cool because it taught the children to be patient – trust me, it is a difficult task to get any child to be patient – and how to respect a different culture’s way of doing something.

I thought that this children’s therapy was fantastic, as it taught the children a great deal about self-growth. I had a lot of fun helping out, and I was so glad to see all of the satisfied expressions on the children’s faces after completing a martial arts exercise.

-Millie

For more information about getting involved with Martial Arts and all of our other terrific therapies, check out the therapies page at dmum.org

Happy volunteering!

TOP Soccer Fridays

“Hey, that was a great kick!” I called back to the little boy in the blue jersey as I retrieved the soccer ball. I watched his expression for some signal that he was ready for my next pass.

It was beautiful weather for a late Friday afternoon in May. The little boy had come with his father and brother to Tappan Middle School for the TOP Soccer program. TOP Soccer is an interactive and fun form of physical training for children with disabilities of the U-M C.S. Mott’s Children’s Hospital families. The coaches show the children various soccer drills, and afterwards, each child is paired with a volunteer with whom they can practice those drills. The children play a few soccer mini-games and usually scrimmage at the very end of each session.

I spent most of my time that day working with a boy named Rohan. He was 7, and he kept telling me that his favorite color was red. He and I spent the majority of the session with Rohan practicing his dribbling skills: I would run backwards whenever he kicked the ball towards me, and we would make our way around the field.

At the Water Break, his mother introduced herself to me. She told me about how she and Rohan’s father love to bring him to TOP Soccer because it’s such an active program. There are so many kids, and everyone’s having a great time being outside and moving around. She described to me how her son becomes so excited when it’s Friday, because Friday means TOP Soccer at 6 PM.

My favorite mini-game was “Sharks and Minnows.” Each child (“minnow”) would line up on the designated line with one soccer ball, waiting for the signal. When the signal was made, all of the minnows would dribble their ball across the field to the other side, or the “safe zone.” However, three of the children would act as “sharks,” and if one ran up to another one and kicked the ball away, that minnow would then become a shark for the next round of the game. It was a lot of fun cheering on the kids as they attempted to stay a minnow for as long as they could.

During the scrimmage, I was so impressed by how well the kids worked together. There were definitely a few star playmakers who were scoring all of the goals (as there are on any sports team!), but I’ve always been a fan of soccer defense rather than offense. On defense, you’re forced to face the threat head-on. I noticed the kids seemed so confident and unafraid of going after the ball with the encouragement from the volunteers and the coaches. TOP Soccer helps the kids become not only physically stronger, but mentally stronger, also.

This was my favorite children’s therapy so far, and you definitely do not need to be a soccer pro in order to help out. Unfortunately, TOP Soccer has ended for the spring, but it will start up again in the fall! Go at least once, just to check it out. I promise it’ll be the highlight of your Friday.

“The greatest gift you can give someone is your time because when you are giving someone your time, you are giving them a portion of your life that you will never get back.”

-Millie

If you’d like to learn more about how to get involved with TOP Soccer and our other great therapies, check out our therapies page at dmum.org