Sports Are For Everyone, also known as SAFE, is an organization that has the main goal of providing training and playing opportunities for children with physical and mental disabilities. SAFE provides special-needs children with ways to socialize and interact with other kids, which in turn gives them confidence and allows them to feel like they belong. SAFE not only provides a great opportunity for children to build physical strength, it also helps them learn valuable lessons in team work, fair play and sportsmanship leading them to be better citizens and community members as they get older. SAFE utilizes the invaluable resource of local volunteers, many of which are local students, to organize the games and events and provide an enriching experience for children of all ages, from early elementary through high school age.
How Did SAFE Begin?
SAFE was started in 1992 by Jim Fitzgerald. He saw the need for activities for special needs children when he met a friend of his son who had Muscular Dystrophy. Upon hearing that the boy was wheelchair bound and would not be able to play with a handheld game they had purchased as a birthday gift, Mr. Fitzgerald decided instead to take with them to the party a baseball bat, glove and schedule for his son’s baseball team. He encourage the young boy, Jim Kent, to join the team. Upon becoming part of the team he was able to use a walker and play with the other kids unlike never before. This positive influence has actually helped Kent throughout his childhood and as an adult it has led him to work on starting his own chapter of SAFE for the local children in his home of Utica, NY.
The other coaches quickly learned that having a disabled child playing in the league really didn’t change things that much. The kids were accepting and this led to the formation of SAFE to allow for other children in a similar situation to find opportunities to play sports. In the process of forming SAFE, Jim and other coaches realized the value was the socialization aspect, along with the physical benefits of playing on a team. Due to Jim Fitzgerald’s forward thinking, there are now hundreds of volunteers who work with SAFE to help the nearly 180 kids learn to work together, play fair and enjoy the feeling that comes with being part of a team. The kids are able to participate in soccer, bowling, basketball, golf and even fishing. While doing these activities, they’re learning valuable lessons about themselves and their abilities, while also gaining friends and reaching goals that many never thought possible.