When Cori Yarbrough interviewed for a job with Munford Parks and Recreation four years ago, there was one particular thing she wanted to pitch to her potential employer.
Through her previous experience working at games, she had noticed a lot of kids watching on the sidelines instead of playing.
“There were always these kids, whether it was somebody’s brother or cousin, watching the games who weren’t playing,” Yarbrough said.
She presented a plan to fix that in her interview and when she got the job as programs coordinator it was implemented a couple of months later.
SNAG, which stands for Special Needs Athletic Group, got started in Munford in the fall of 2015. The program is for children, and sometimes young adults, who are not able to take part in traditional sports for various reasons.
Between 12 and 15 participants play a baseball game once a week for six weeks in the spring and fall at Centennial Park.
“Some have physical limitations and a lot are developmentally delayed or have behavioral issues that don’t allow them to play for a full hour under strict rules and guidelines,” Yarbrough said. “They need a little more freedom.”
Tyler Griffin, who is now 20 and has autism, started playing in the league four years ago and never stopped.
“He loves it,” said Judy Little, Griffin’s mother. “It gives him a chance to play with other members of the community without the pressure.”
A big part of the program is the volunteers. Each player is assigned a “buddy” who goes out on the field and provides whatever kind of help is necessary. Some of the players need physical help while others just require moral support from a familiar face.
The buddies come in in all ages, but a lot of them are teenagers from Gateway Baptist Church.
Having volunteers on the field also give parents a much-needed break.
“Their life is so involved in helping their kids do day-to-day stuff,” Yarbrough said. “To be able to sit back and watch their kid enjoy something they’ve never been able to do before is a big part of it. It’s just as much for the parents, really, as it is for the kids … We have volunteers so parents can just sit back and enjoy it.”
The games generally draw pretty big crowds. Yarbrough said it’s very common for the players to tell teachers or other people from their school about the games and those people show up to cheer them on.
Yarbrough said she would love to have an indoor facility one day that could be used because some kids can’t be outside in hot weather for long periods of time.
“You always wish you could provide more opportunities for more kids and make it bigger,” Yarbrough said.
Fall registration will be July 1 – Aug. 18. Anyone interested can register here or at the Munford Parks and Recreation office. The cost is $55.
SNAG gets some support from the business community. Community members have offered to pay the fee for those who can’t afford it.
Don Currie of Delta Marketing Services has paid for the uniforms each of the past four years.
“His support has been a huge part of our program and we are very thankful for him,” Yarbrough said.
Little said the program has greatly benefitted her son.
“All the parents are great because it’s great to see your child try something new,” she said. “I know Tyler enjoys it, being able to participate in a sport he likes. He loves seeing all the people he calls his friends.”