Carma Brown will receive the 2015 ABCA Meritorious Service Award, it was announced on Tuesday. Brown has been instrumental in growing the Challenger Baseball program in Grand Junction, Colorado, a program that provides special needs children a venue to enjoy our great game, regardless of their disabilities.
The Meritorious Service Award will be presented to Brown at the Honors Luncheon at the ABCA Convention on Jan. 4, 2015 at 12:15 p.m. at the World Center Marriott in Orlando, Florida. Tickets to the Honors Luncheon must be purchased in advanced at www.ABCA.org/apply.
The Challenger Baseball program pairs up special needs children, ages 8 to 21, with "buddies" who assist the children while they play. The Challenger Baseball program's participants' disabilities range from wheelchair bound, down-syndrome and autism to cerebral palsy and vision impaired, among others. The "buddies" include varsity baseball players from the four local high schools, Mesa State College athletes, players from the Pioneer League (MLB Rookie League) and others from the community. Brown credits Mesa State baseball coach Chris Hanks for 17 consecutive years of support.
In addition to local "buddies", teams that qualify for the NJCAA World Series have participated in the final game of the season since 2004. The NJCAA World Series is held annually in Grand Junction. Thirteen different JuCo teams have participated, including Spartanburg Methodist, Midland College, Blinn College and Johnson County Community College in 2014.
The Challenger program is a non-profit organization that operates primarily on donations. Any contributions are directly applied to the cost of equipment, trophies and events. It has grown to eight teams and over 80 participants.
Brown says that the Challenger Baseball program motto is a quote by the great Lou Gehrig: "There is no room in baseball for discrimination. It is our national pastime and a game for all."
Brown works at Home Loan Insurance Company. Her co-workers are also involved in Challenger Baseball. Brown and her husband, Nick, reside in Grand Junction and have two sons, Cody and Kyle.