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Screaming Eagles special needs athletic club provides sports experiences for children with disabilit

Program volunteers working to build its first “field of dreams”

Chapin, SC (James Bowers) – Unfortunately, children with mental and physical disabilities often have fewer after-school activities available to them because standard facilities just can’t accommodate them. Once Jenny and Patrick Bowers, a Chapin area couple, recognized this problem, they decided to do their part to fix it. Since that revelation, they have conceived and launched the Screaming Eagles Athletic Club. The organization gives people with special physical and emotional challenges, the opportunity to play baseball and soccer just like other children their age can. With necessary modifications made to fields and equipment to accommodate the participants’ conditions, everyone gets to play! Jenny Bowers says that special accommodations can be either simple or very complex depending upon a child’s needs. To the Screaming Eagles, no level of accommodation is considered unattainable, and no child who wants to play should be turned away.

A wheelchair bound soccer player may not be able to play the game in a conventional manner, but when given a stick, can strike the ball in place of kicking it. They can be competitive and have fun too. A visually impaired player can use a ball that beeps to help him or her keep track of where it is on the field. Goals can also be outfitted with a beeper to give the child a chance at scoring. Many experts say being a part of a group activity can be of tremendous benefit to a child with a disability. “It gives them something to do,” co-founder Bowers said. “A lot of these kids don’t get to be a part of anything else, so the Screaming Eagles gives them the opportunity to be part of something, and feel included.”

The organization, which struck out on its own last summer after initially operating through the Irmo Chapin Recreation Commission, is a 501c (3) nonprofit. That means that all monetary contributions can be tax deductible. Since inception, the Screaming Eagles have grown to a membership of over 30 young athletes, a number which is very likely to continue to grow as the word about these opportunities gets out. That’s why Bowers say the group is working extremely hard to raise funds to build their own facilities; They need to have their own place to play as they need to play.

The Screaming Eagles have already won the support of many of their neighbors in Chapin and the greater Midlands in general. Some of the organizations that have volunteered to help the Screaming Eagles include the student-athletes of Chapin High School, Dutch Fork High School, and Mid-Carolina High School, as well as the University of South Carolina. Those groups have all played against the club, as have members of the Richland County Sheriff’s Department. This includes some of the officers who have appeared on the popular television show Live PD. These volunteers, known as “happy helpers” by the club, have been active in helping the Screaming Eagles organize their games and with fundraisers.Currently, the team plays on Mondays and Wednesdays from 5-7p.m. at Chapin High School’s soccer field.

The Screaming Eagles have plans for a specialized baseball field that it dubs its “Field of Dreams." Their vision is for a high caliber facility, complete with dugouts, a press box, and bleachers. Because fields and facilities of any type are expensive, fundraising is crucial. Fortunately, the Eagles have friends in the community that are willing to help out in many different ways. It is a common sight at local high school athletic events to see kids selling hot chocolate, lemonade, or various other things to benefit the club.

Other organizations or businesses that have pitched in include Wild Wing Café, who had a Screaming Eagles Spirit Night this past Friday. The Chapin United Methodist Church, who held a fundraising drive for the team in December, has also jumped on the band-wagon.

Next weekend, the Chapin Junior Woman’s Club will also host an oyster roast to benefit the club. That is scheduled for Saturday, January 27, 2018 from 5:30 pm - 10:30 pm at the Timberlake Country Club. Tickets are $40.00 each and can be bought by e-mailing April Robinson at april_299@yahoo.com. She can also be contacted by telephone at (815) 531-9899.

In the future, the Screaming Eagles have exhibition games planned with the Columbia Fireflies and the Lexington County Blowfish. There has already been a huge outpouring of support that shows how much the community cares about the Screaming Eagles, its special athletes, and its mission.

Bowers says that in addition to the field of dreams, the club hopes to one day build an adult day care center for the area’s special needs population and an indoor facility. This will allow Screaming Eagles to accommodate more sports such as basketball. To find out how you can help, visit screamingeaglesspeicalneeds.org or email screamingeaglesathletics@gmail.com.

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