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Swinging for the fence
Beep Ball Tournament at Field of Dreams puts all students on a level playing field
Johnson High’s Andrew Jones gets a high-five from Julie Johnson after Jones’ home run at Field of Dreams Friday morning in Flowery Branch. About 250 special education students gathered at the field for a day of games, fellowship, and fun.

Ordinarily, batters are encouraged to keep their eyes on the ball. But as the players approached home plate Friday at the Field of Dreams, they found it more beneficial to rely on another sense — their hearing.

Since their blindfolds wouldn’t allow them to see the ball, the players timed their swings at the oversized softball based on the proximity of the beeps it emitted.

“It’s weird. You can’t see anything, you just hear it,” said Breanna Hall, a Johnson High School student.

“This is my third time playing, but it’s still a little difficult.”

Breanna, along with about 250 other members of Partnerships for Success — a school-based club with chapters in local middle and high school — gathered at the field in south Hall County for their annual Beep Ball Tournament.

“The club is about connecting with people who need a little extra help. The goal is to make them feel more included in school and society,” said Christian Mechwart, a Chestatee High student.

“One of our goals is to create inclusive clubs so we have students with and without disabilities learning about each other and becoming friends,” said Colleen Lambert, Partnerships’ program coordinator.

“Beep ball gives them the opportunity to experience what it’s like to have a visual impairment, but it also puts them on an equal playing field because everyone is blindfolded.”

The field itself is a great equalizer. The rubberized field at Alberta Banks Park in Flowery Branch is accessible to everyone.

“Having venues where all people can access them is important. We need more places like this one,” said Bob McGarry, executive director of the Disability Resource Center, which helped to organize the event.

“This tournament and this field is important because it gives the youth an opportunity to experience self-empowerment because everyone can participate, even with a disability.”

Even though the outing presented many learning opportunities, in the end, it was just a day at the ballpark — hot dogs, Cracker Jack and all.

“The kids look forward to this all year,” said Nancy Peeples, resource specialist with the Disability Resource Center.
“At the center, inclusion is what we strive for in everything we do, so this fits right in with that. The game is a competition, but when somebody hits the ball, everybody yells because we’re all so excited.

“This tournament is just about everyone having a good time.”

Based on the smiles on everyone’s faces and the high-fives being passed around, it seems like their game plan was a winning one.

“It was fun,” summed up John Thomas, a Chestatee High School student. “I had fun with my friends.”

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