SIERRA VISTA — The Avengers Little League baseball team, which is comprised of boys and girls with special needs, closed out their season June 5 with a game against the First Responders, a group of EMS personnel from the Sierra Vista and Fry Fire Departments.
After the game each Avengers player was presented with a certificate and a special gift commemorating the season.
Michelle Henretta is executive director of Avengers Inclusion, which includes Avengers Special Needs Sports in Sierra Vista.
“We started (the Avengers) five years ago with five athletes and now have 15 athletes and their buddies (various youth peers that help the athletes during practices and games),” she said. “We took last year off because of COVID-19. We offer multiple special needs sports options throughout the year and are continually growing and expanding. Our athletes have varying intellectual and physical disabilities ranging in ages from 6-18.”
The Avengers played eight games this year, three of which were against various baseball and softball teams from the Sierra Vista Little League, one against Sierra Vista Boy Scout Troop 435 and the last against the Sierra Vista First Responders.
The Avengers play under the Ponytail Softball League charter and board.
“They have been with us every step of the way,” Henretta said of the Ponytail board. “They have been very supportive of our team and are awesome to work with. With the other sports we offer we partner with other organizations. It took me four years to even get anyone to agree to starting this and this year we will have not just baseball but five sports total with more sports and programs on the horizon that I am in the process of getting set within the next year to start.
“Our parents have mentioned that not only has this given their kids a chance to be a part of something, but we have athletes who have friends for the first times in their lives and parents have found others they can connect with as well. We have become more than just a non-profit but a family. This has been my passion and dream of getting this together.”
Henretta says the Avengers also offer soccer, bowling, basketball and track.
“We’re big on inclusion,” she said. “This is all geared toward those with special needs and their families. This past season has been so amazing. Last year we had one practice and then we had to cancel. The kids were beyond excited to be out here. We had some new kiddos join us this year. They learned all kinds of new skills this year.”
Henretta said the vision Avengers Special Needs Sports is “A world where people with special needs can share in the joy of sports and community.
Its mission is “To provide recreational sports for children and young adults with special needs through a volunteer driven community. Partnering with peers as ‘buddies’ to assist when needed and also a fun socialization experience for everyone involved.”
The Avengers goal is to “open all abilities we play for, smiles and celebrate each goal as our athletes learn the skills of each sport and build confidence. We believe we can ignite change in the community through acceptance and understanding as we all play together.”
For more on the Avengers Special Needs sports program visit their Facebook page at Avengers Special Needs sports.