SAVAGE, Minn. (WCCO) — Something special is happening inside the Savage Dome. It’s the first of its kind in Minnesota.
“And it started with Gracie,” said Heather Pierson, who started it all with Gracie’s mom. “She always came up to me after games and said, ‘It’s my turn to play!’ Not just in a backyard, but she wanted to play on a field, with her own teammates.”
Grace Theis is 9 years old and has Down syndrome … and a great mom.
“Grace was always acting jealous that her brother and sister were leaving to go to lacrosse practice and games, and she said that she wanted to have a turn,” says Grace’s mother Tami Theis. “So I started thinking that maybe that’s something that we could do. I checked into it and didn’t see any lacrosse leagues out there. And my daughter’s coach — Heather — I asked her if this is something she wanted to do with me. And she got very excited and jumped all over it.”
What they started is an adaptive lacrosse program for special needs kids called No Boundaries Lacrosse.
“There are no rules,” Tami Theis said. “We adapt to every child that comes in with every disability they have. So even if we had children in wheelchairs, we would make that work for them. … We’ve got sticks with bigger heads, to be easier for them to catch the ball. We have soft balls so when they get hit by the ball, it’s not going to have an impact. And we’re just being very careful in watching them, to make sure everyone stays safe.”
They have a group of adults supervising, and each player gets paired up 1-on-1 with a peer helper.
“It’s amazing,” said Jody Rich, whose son Jacob participated. “It’s the best feeling ever to see him happy, and to see him be part of a team, and to work hard and be accepted and loved.”
“It’s so rewarding,” Pierson said. “Just to see them, and talking to them and giving high fives, I mean, that’s what they look forward to.”
“I just love seeing the faces of the kids, feeling like they’ve got something that they can call their own,” Tami Theis said. “They all have siblings that are doing sports, and they’re getting dragged back and forth just like Gracie was. And you know that they’re wishing that they could participate. And it’s the whole reason that we’re here, the whole reason that I wanted to do this.”
The goal is to recruit more kids. They hope to grow the program big enough to have multiple teams and have tournaments.
“We just want more kids involved,” Tami Theis said. “It’s just something that I hope continues and never stops.
No Boundaries Lacrosse has monthly camps at the Savage Dome for children grade K-12 who have some form of a disability. The next camp is Jan. 4, 2014. If you’d like to get your child involved, or would just like more information, click here.