I contribute a weekly column to the Platte County Landmark under the “Rambling Moron” name. It’s a great Northland Newspaper and well worth a subscription. The following is an early edition of my article which will appear in the 1/11/11 edition – printed with permission.

Near the border of the counties of Clay and Platte, along Highway 152 sits an ordinary old schoolhouse. From the highway, it looks like any other normal school building with the exception of a small, colorful baseball field near the highway. And “normal” is just how they want you to see it.

The complex is the Challenger Athletic Complex and it stands as one of the crown jewels of the area that nobody knows about.

It is here at the Challenger complex that special needs kids, kids in wheelchairs and other kids with mobility problems get an opportunity to play sports and compete with all the support they need. The facility is run by the YMCA and according to their website is the first of its kind in the nation. It is designed to “see able-bodied children playing on fields right next to those kids who are challenged with special needs.” The complex is funded through local donations and has become one of the charities supported by the Kansas City Royals.

Saturday, January 14, the Royals will be putting on a major charity event called “Challenge Your Fashion” to help raise money for the complex. The event features current and former Royals in a “fashion show.” As these fellas are used to only wearing uniforms, workout clothes and cleats, it’s quite a show when they are dressed to the 9’s. The event is also designed to be a great way to interact and party with our Boys in Blue. (And boys in very nice suits…) My wife is EXTREMELY excited to attend. I can only assume it’s because she loves spending time with me and has nothing to do with the chance to see chiseled, muscular, professional athletes wearing their Sunday best. Sports is a great tool to help the hearts and souls of children and just because a kid has limitations, that shouldn’t be a barrier to participating.

Scott Hallier, one of the coordinators of the charity event, and who also has a child in the program, says the opportunity to play sports is both “rare and rewarding.” Those kids will build the same life skills an able-bodied kid learns in team sports including teamwork and self-confidence.

The complex features a state-of-the-art baseball and soccer field. Its future plans include a football field and two grass baseball diamonds. The idea is to assimilate those with special needs with more able-bodied competitors.

All right here in the Northland.

Their yearly fundraiser is the best chance to help these kids. If you have an opportunity and the means, please come out to the Challenge Your Fashion event at the Midland, Saturday, January 14. You can order tickets from challengeyourfashion.com. If you can’t make it, please find a way to support and grow the YMCA’s efforts to help these great kids and an amazing Northland charity.