EDISON, NJ --  Edison Buddy Ball, an athletic organization formed in 1993 to give children with any special need a chance to participate in a variety of sports. The organization, which offers  baseball, basketball, and soccer programs to special needs children, was the brainchild of Leonard Stein, who was involved in the North Edison Baseball League at the time.

The league embraced the concept and recruited teen-age volunteers to be buddies for the children and persuaded some parents to become coaches. Edison Policeman’s Benevolent Association Local 75 and the Edison Elks joined the effort by raising money to buy team uniforms and equipment, enabling children to join up without any cost to their families.

Varsity and JV players from St. Joseph High School (Metuchen) acted as buddies for the special needs children for the past two weeks. They guided the players around the base paths, played catch with them, and made new friends for the day.

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"It's important for our guys to participate in a program like this," said St. Joe's varsity head coach Mike Murray, who celebrated his 28th birthday by bringing his players to North Edison baseball complex and pitching to the children. "Each player gets a buddy and helps them out."

Organizers Trisha Garlatti and Francine Pychewicz said the program has particular meaning in April, which is Autism Awareness Month.  Garlatti is the liaison with the various teams that help with the 10-week program. Upcoming participants include teams from Bishop Ahr High School and Keane University.