NORFOLK, VA. - Little league baseball - it's a part of growing up for many kids!
For a special local mother and father, they have focused on enabling all kids to have that chance to hit the field. Gary and Becky Owens head up the Challenger division of the Ocean View Little League in Norfolk, giving an opportunity for children with special needs to compete. Every season they're coaching at least two teams, sometimes three. It's 100 percent volunteer.
News 3 was able to surprise them at a league meeting, where I shared with those in attendance that it was the league president, Jason Dassow, who sent us an email.
"Gary and Beck have volunteered for many different organizations, to include 17 years for Ocean View Little League as the Challengers program manager," Jason read. "Gary and Becky have been taking action for years. It is time for them to be recognized for the selfless time, effort and tears they have sacrificed to give special needs children a plethora of opportunities to succeed and the joy they have brought to countless lives."
They also volunteer for the Special Olympics and do countless hours of fundraising, and for those reasons, News 3 presented Gary and Becky with a People Taking Action award, along with a $300 Visa gift card from our community partner, Southern Bank.
Why is this so important to Gary?
"It's important to just give these kids a chance to be normal, to have them feel normal - let them play baseball in our case. Let them enjoy the game; let them be cheered on," he said.
That philosophy helps explain how it all started for them - when their 23-year-old son Kyle, who has special needs, was looking for the opportunity to play a sport when he was a kid. Becky knew they had to do something.
"When Kyle was five, there wasn't a place for him to play," Becky said. And that was essentially the birth of the Challengers' program. "And so where was Kyle going to play? And so we said we'll have a team and so that's what started it."
It's been a lot of work and dedication, but Gary stresses there's a huge payoff.
"But you'll see the smiles; it's worth it just for that - just to make these kids happy," he said.