SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ – Registration is currently under way for the South Plainfield Recreation Buddy Ball Basketball Program. The free 6-week program, which will be held at the PAL with support from the borough’s Department of Recreation, will run in September and October. Experience is not necessary.
According to South Plainfield resident John Bentivenga, the Buddy Ball Basketball Program is designed for children who may have a difficult time participating in traditional rec sports and provides opportunities to physically and developmentally challenged youth.
“My 11 year old daughter plays rec and travel softball for South Plainfield and my wife and I have always thought about how we can get our 6-year-old daughter, who is autistic, involved in a sport. Typical recreation teams are challenging,” said Bentivenga.
Looking to bring a Buddy Ball League to South Plainfield, Bentivenga approached the Recreation Commission, Director Kevin Hughes, and Councilwoman Christine Faustini in the spring, and over the months that followed, a basketball program soon became a reality.
“Recreation Director Kevin Hughes and Councilwoman Christine Faustini were enthusiastic about the idea,” he said. “Together we brainstormed and found a path for special needs children of South Plainfield to be involved in recreational sports.”
"Kevin and I were tasked with exploring program possibilities and, after meeting and consulting with other Buddy Ball coaches and additional parents, Kevin volunteered to be the head coach for our pilot basketball program," said Faustini, who serves as recreation liaison.
Through the program, special needs children ages 5 and older are welcome as ‘players’ and will be teamed up with volunteer ‘buddies’ age 12 and up. Buddies will be paired up with players and/or coaches to provide individual assistance, guidance, and encouragement. The goal, according to Bentivenga, is for each player to be matched with a minimum of one buddy.
"Ultimately, we want our children to have fun and a feeling of camaraderie," he said.
"I am confident that, with the support of our recreation commission, expertise of Director Hughes, passion of the parents, and drive of our children this program will become a well loved facet of our recreation program," said Faustini. "In South Plainfield we will always make sure each child has an opportunity to try sports and a turn to play. It has been my honor and pleasure to help facilitate this program.
“My hope is for our basketball clinic to be the first of many Buddy Ball sports programs offered," added Bentivenga.
The South Plainfield Recreation Buddy Ball Basketball program will be held at the PAL, located at 1250 Maple Avenue, on Wednesdays – Sept. 12 through Oct. 17 – from 6 to 7 p.m. Register in person at the PAL. For more information, call (908) 226-7713.
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