Georgia Church Reaches Hundreds with Adaptive Sports and Activities Program

(ALL PHOTOS COURTESY OF ASAP FACEBOOK PAGE)

By Justin Horey

at Christian North Church In Fortson, Georgia, children and young adults with disabilities are experiencing the thrill of participating in team sports — some for the first time — through a new service called the Adaptive sports and activity program.

ASAP was created by Northside members Beatrice Hiner and her husband Michaelto serve children and families who are often excluded from community programs like sports leagues. The Hiners were inspired to start the Ministry after hearing about the Little League’s Challenger Division, a national baseball program for players with physical and mental challenges.

On the second Saturday of every month, the Adaptive Sports & Activities Program offers “fun sports and activities for children and young adults with learning and physical disabilities.” Activities take place at Northside Christian Church and are run by volunteers from the community and surrounding community.

At ASAP, all sports and activities are adapted so that everyone can participate and have fun. Nets are lowered, pitches shortened and, in some cases, oversized balls used to ensure all participants can play every game. Each player is also assigned a buddy to help them through the various drills, skills, and competitions. Participation in all ASAP events is free of charge. Snacks and drinks are included. All participants and all volunteers will receive a free t-shirt, backpack and water bottle.

The program is designed to be a blessing to participants and their parents or caregivers. The ASAP website states, “We want this to be a fun event for your child and their entire family, in a safe environment.”

Northside has hosted three ASAP events so far – in August, September and October – and another is planned for November 12 before the program goes on winter break. Paul Chappellan elder at Northside and a regular volunteer at ASAP events, blogged about the surprise attendance at the first three sessions.

“The community has rallied in droves for this program,” wrote Chappell. “We figured if we could reach a handful of kids, maybe we could help some families. Last month we had over a hundred people here – including . . . Volunteers, parents and a boatload of kids.”

Beatrice Hiner agreed. She says the program has already exceeded her expectations and continues to grow. She expressed her gratitude to her pastor, elders and the Northside church, all of whom have supported the new ministry.

“The response from the church has been absolutely amazing,” she said.

Aaron Walch, senior pastor at Northside, said the ASAP program has required faith and humility from church leaders. Neither he nor anyone else on the staff has received any special training in caring for children or families with special needs. As a result, he said, “It was intimidating and almost overwhelming” to start the ASAP service. Ultimately, Welch and the elders felt the Lord was calling them to this ministry. He remembers deciding to accept the call and God saying, “We don’t want to do that our ideas. we want to do your ideas.”

Welch, Beatrice Hiner and everyone else associated with ASAP give glory to God.

“God teaches us every Saturday,” Hiner said as she reflected on the first three events. “We work with these families and learn.”

Welch agreed, “God is the wind in the sails. We are humbled.”

Northside leaders are now looking at ways to adapt the church’s Sunday services and children’s programs to make them more accessible to the children and families who come to the Adaptive Sports & Activities Program. Paraphrasing the book of James, Welch said, “Pure religion provides for the neediest among us”—on the athletic field, in the church, and everywhere.

Of course, there are children with special needs and their families in every city and state—not just in and around the Columbus, Georgia area. If your church is interested in starting a similar program to minister to families in your community, visit www.comeandseencc.com to learn more.

Read Smiles Everywhere, Paul Chappell’s moving and detailed account of volunteering at the ASAP event on October 9, 2022. He has it posted bred in Georgia blog, georgiabred56.com.

Justin Horey is an author, musician and founder of Livingstone Marketing. He lives in Southern California. Photos courtesy of ASAP Facebook page.



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