From The World Of Parks & Recreation
By Doug Comer
Jeff Wetzel has worked for the HCPRC for many years. He has played an important role in our recreation department, our enrichments, and here recently in a full-time role as Event Coordinator. Needless to say the guy wears a lot of hats. In fact, his business card is an 8 ½” X 11” card stock sheet of paper.
Wetzel and I have a relationship unlike any other. We constantly give each other a hard time no matter what the situation calls for. And to get “one up” on the old man is a feat that is hard to do. He has a quick wit about him and a great sense of humor. I am glad to call him a good friend.
His drive for work stems from the kids he coaches or teaches. I admit, he is strict with the rules and runs a tight ship, but he has a heart of gold. And every child, teacher or parent he meets, they can expect a top-notch program or event because of the passion he possesses.
I lead into this because of the Challenger League that the Parks and Recreation created a year ago. Let me correct myself. The league Wetzel formed.
This is a basketball program for special population athletes to come out, and not be the spectator in the seats, but participate in a full court, four-quarter basketball game where every kid has an opportunity to shine.
“This is the second year of the league, and we have already doubled in size,” related Director Mike Book. “Jeff approached me last year about forming a league and obviously it was an easy decision to make. He took the lead on the program and turned it into a success.”
The First Baptist Church in downtown Shinnston has a recreation center with a full-sized basketball court, and the league calls this place home. The activity center has been an ideal spot for the league as Wetzel explains.
“We have been thankful to not only have the Church, but the whole City of Shinnston, welcome our league to the area. The court is carpeted to ensure safety and we have modified the rims to accommodate all athletes. We take this league seriously and our support from the Parks and the County Commission has made it successful.”
Around 40 kids play in the league and everyone gets a chance to score. The league plays with a running 8-minute clock and a referee to make sure the athletes get the full experience of a game. And, as Wetzel adds, the game is strictly fun-oriented and the score does not matter.
“We want every child out there to have an opportunity to make a basket, and you would be surprised at how well these kids can play. Each kid has the chance to dribble the ball down the court, pass it to a teammate or shoot the ball. All these kids are special not because of their condition, but because they are out having fun doing something they may not normally have the chance to.”
The opening ceremony was last weekend and Wetzel made sure that the opening had all the fringes of a high school holiday challenge. He introduced all the players, thanked the sponsors of the teams, recognized his staff for helping with the success of the program, and even had half time entertainment from local rising star Olivia Spino.
Please make sure that you look at our Facebook Page under Harrison Parks for dates of the games. It’s a great experience to be part of whether as a spectator, or a volunteer as one of the player’s “buddies.” It is definitely an experience like no other.
In closing, Wetzel has taken a thought, turned it into an idea which created this league, and most importantly, found yet another avenue to ensure that all kids in Harrison County has an opportunity to participate in recreation. Thank you my friend for making me a part of it.
For more information about the league, or if you have a special needs child that would like to participate, please contact the Harrison County Parks and Recreation.