That is why Nunn and others have joined together to increase the opportunities for local youths to participate in sporting activities through Cartersville Challenger.
Many of those Challenger youngsters, who are physically and mentally challenged, grew up watching others participate in and enjoy sporting events but never lived those dreams themselves.
That is changing. Over the weekend Cartersville Challenger kicked off play in basketball, playing the first of what is envisioned as a “six to eight” game season. Last fall football was kicked off and Challenger youngsters also participated as cheerleaders. They have been involved in baseball and bowling for a number of years.
Nunn said the activities help the youths enjoy sports while interacting with others who also face their challenges and with buddies who provide them assistance so they can compete on the playing field. That ranges from helping youngsters dribble or shoot, hit or carry the ball, and doing cheerleading routines.
Nunn said the excitement he sees on the faces of youngsters makes it worthwhile.
“You can see their excitement when crowds show and have gotten loud a couple of games. It was fun. The kids know when the crowds are there for them. There’s nothing like bringing a smile to a child’s face. It’ll make anybody’s day.”
Nunn said it has been heartwarming seeing the Cartersville community embrace the sporting events with the youngsters while serving as their buddies. Those buddies often are members of youth sporting groups, such as Woodland’s softball team or members of football and wrestling teams from Woodland and Cartersville high schools.
Nunn said coaches such as Cartersville’s Frank Barden (football), Stuart Chester, Drew Startup and Brian Adams, Woodland’s Vince DiLorenzo (football) and Adrian Tramutola (wrestling) have lent the program their support.
He said the youngsters really respond to the high school athletic stars.
“They see [Cartersville High football star] Hayes Linn on the football field and then he comes and helps them as a buddy or they are introduced to Taylor Braselton, who they know is a really good softball player from Woodland and it’s a big thing in their lives.”
Over the weekend, other high school students such as Case Ditmer, Brooks Barden, Zach Frye, R.J. Williams and Greg Murphy. Among the middle school students participating were Jacob Frye, Terrius Callahan, Tate Mathis, Blaze Kansco, Trase Fezzia, Evan Nichols and Kartsten Black.
Nunn said those buddies help them have fun and live their dream of playing.
“Football was just a blast. We played about eight weeks, including 40-minute games, four different teams and cheerleaders. Morgan Jones took our cheerleader program and really ran with it.”
He said the challenger cheerleaders performed routines and did halftime shows. “What stood out to me was how happy the youngsters were to have pom poms. One of our girls was invited to be with the Cartersville middle school cheerleaders.”
He said the football program touched a lot of lives.
“Altogether in football we had about 80 kids playing and cheering,” he said. “It was great to see it. It’s what I love about the Cartersville community.
“Cartersville sometimes had two and three buddies for them because so many showed up,” he said. “I saw bonds start to form.
“That’s something we want to build on as we move forward, figure out how to make this bigger.”
He said in football, a lot of bonds were formed and sometimes the buddies would seek out the same child they had before. “It was incredible to watch. I didn’t expect the reaction from the high school kids.”
Over the weekend the group tipped off a basketball league.
“We want to open it up to whatever anybody likes to do,” he said. “My long term outlook is to create something like GRPA on the handicap level. We’d like to offer any sports and make it a state-wide thing.
“It’ll take a lot of hard work. I have lived in this community 16 years now. I didn’t know about baseball until about two years ago and now it’s just a big part of my life.”
He said the level of assistance provided by buddies varies with the child.
“We have some who are quadriplegic. Our buddies might catch the football and put it in their arms and help them run to the end zone.”
He said the same is true with baseball, cheerleading, bowling and basketball.
One of the things he likes about the use of buddies is that it lets parents sit in the audience and cheer their children, creating memories for them to treasure through the years.
Nunn said the program owes a lot to people like Joe Robinson and Paul Walker and Wendy Adams with Bartow Navigator team.
“They’ve done baseball and bowling and they’ve been very gracious to let me be a part of it.”
Persons wishing more information about the program should contact Robinson at 770-547-6113; Walker, 678-721-1607 and Nunn at 404-567-1583.
The basketball games are being played around 2 p.m. at Cartersville Primary School.
There presently are about 30 players on four teams with 14 cheerleaders involved in the basketball program.
“Anyone interested please contact us,” Nunn said. “We’re always looking for sponsors and ways to make money for the group and looking for people to volunteer.”