Organization pairs local young athletes and kids with special needs for organized baseball and basketball games.

Photos from PAASS events and Challenger Days. Courtesy images.

If you’re looking for a reason to smile on May 15, Boyle Park is the place to be.

That’s where Project Awareness and Special Sports (PAASS), which pairs local young athletes and kids with special needs for organized baseball and basketball games, is hosting its 2nd Annual Challenger Day.

PAASS, originally known as Challenger Baseball and Basketball, is “hoping to take this day as an opportunity to raise awareness and support among the Mill Valley community for our program and players,” according to Tyler Barbee, a Tam High grad and the organization’s founder. The main event is a pair of games played by the Mill Valley Challenger Red Sox, one of the program’s baseball teams. 

Barbee founded PAASS in 2014 as an outgrowth of the Challenger League, an organized program started in 2009 by longtime local resident Janet Miller, Barbee’s mom, through Mill Valley Little League. The program pairs kids with special needs and a desire to play organized sports with “buddies” – primarily high school and middle school athletes – to assist them. The idea, Miller said, was quite simple: give kids with special needs the same chance to participate in organized sports. Miller and Barbee have also worked with San Rafael-based Autistry Studios, a pre-vocational program, to spread the word about the potential benefits of hiring someone with special needs.

The games themselves put smiles on the faces of all involved, from the children with special needs getting a chance to play sports and the volunteer athletes giving back to their community to attendees who get to revel in the heartwarming interactions.

“There is nothing sweeter and richer than to experience the joy of the players hitting the ball and running the bases or the interaction between the “buddies” and players as they both work to learn from each other and create a community,” Miller says.

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