Make us your home page
Instagram

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Recreational Sports

Program gets disabled involved in games

James Lee, 32, grips a softball and prepares to throw it before a softball game for Achievers of America at Veterans Memorial Park in Hudson. Lee, who suffers cerebral palsy, also got to bat.

MIKE CAMUNAS | Times

James Lee, 32, grips a softball and prepares to throw it before a softball game for Achievers of America at Veterans Memorial Park in Hudson. Lee, who suffers cerebral palsy, also got to bat.

HUDSON

Claudia Fitzhugh rounds the bases and heads for home. She crosses the plate and there are cheers from everyone at the softball fields at Veterans Memorial Park. All the way around the diamond, this 35-year-old deaf woman was smiling. That smile grows wider, as if she had just won the World Series. Steve Biondo watches all of this and raises his hand, giving Fitzhugh a high five.

This is a typical Wednesday morning for Biondo, founder and president of Achievers of America, a program for handicapped and challenged that offers bowling and softball.

It gives everyone a chance.

"Everyone plays," Biondo said. "Everyone bats, runs and gets a high five. Everyone."

Biondo created the organization in New York in 1998 and then moved a chapter down to Florida in 2001. His son, Raymond, is part of the organization and usually pitches during softball. Though he never specifically created it for his son, Biondo claims, he adds disabilities that don't stop at intellect or physical challenges.

The organization will take anyone struggling with themselves from any place in the bay area.

"Think of people who are overweight," Biondo said. "It's just to get them out and socialize and do something. That's the main goal here.

"It's more than just exercise — it's about gaining self confidence as well."

Biondo likes to brag the main rule is there are no rules. However, when playing, Biondo stresses that while he and volunteers and parents are present, the athletes do everything themselves. They even form their own teams week to week, as well as designating captains.

Even when volunteers are really necessary — say an athlete with cerebral palsy struggles to stand at the plate or needs to be wheeled there — they stay in the background, only offering encouragement.

But the athletes aren't the only ones with smiles.

"What makes me feel good is seeing the parents seeing something that they never thought they would see in their child," Biondo said. "I don't treat them as someone special. I treat them like any other human and I teach them the self esteem they wouldn't get anywhere else in the world."

What's going on in your neighborhood?

Let us know and we may come document it. Tell us about an event, a game, a practice, an outing, a tournament — anything! There's a lot going on in the community and we want to know about it. Contact community sports editor Mike Camunas and tell him what's happening. Call him at (352) 544-1771 or e-mail him at [email protected] We live in this community, so let's talk to each other.

Fast facts

To learn more

For more info on Achievers of America, contact Steve Biondo at (727) 868-5084 or www.achieversof
america.info.

Program gets disabled involved in games 01/28/09 [Last modified: Friday, January 30, 2009 12:07am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Peter Budaj, Lightning lose to Devils in shootout; Nikita Kucherov scores

    Lightning Strikes

    NEWARK, N.J. — For Peter Budaj, Tuesday's season debut had a shaky start.

    The Lightning’s Vladislav Namestnikov, right, battles Damon Severson for the puck.
  2. Lightning's Steve Yzerman enjoying Nikita Kucherov's scoring run

    Lightning Strikes

    NEWARK, N.J. — If anyone knows what it is like to be as hot as Nikita Kucherov is right now, it's Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman.

    Tampa Bay Lightning right wing Nikita Kucherov, of Russia, celebrates after scoring a goal on the New Jersey Devils during the second period of an NHL hockey game, Tuesday, Oct. 17, 2017, in Newark, N.J. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
  3. Bucs journal: Offense needs to get off to a faster start

    Bucs

    TAMPA — The past two games have seen the Bucs offense muster furious rallies in the fourth quarter of losses, with 229 yards against the Patriots and a franchise-record 27 points against the Cardinals.

    Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Dirk Koetter walks the field before an NFL game between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz., on Sunday, Oct. 15, 2017.
  4. NFL players, owners hold 'constructive' talks on issues

    Bucs

    NEW YORK — NFL players and owners met Tuesday to discuss social issues, a session Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross called "constructive" and Colts defensive back Darius Butler termed "positive."

    A coalition of advocacy groups 'take a knee' outside of a hotel where members the quarterly NFL league meetings are being held on Tuesday in New York City.  Owners, players and commissioner Roger Goodell are all expected to attend. The activists spoke of having solidarity with athletes and coaches around the country who have also kneeled in protest of racial injustice, especially in policing.
 [Getty Images]
  5. Lightning's Steve Yzerman: Nikita Kucherov 'wants to be great'

    Blogs

    If anyone knows what it is like to be as hot as Nikita Kucherov is right now, it's Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman.

    Nikita Kucherov joined Steve Yzerman, Mario Lemieux and Keith Tkachuk as the only players in the last 30 years to score a goal in each of his team's first six games.