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A fun-raiser for autism

Sandusky Register - 5/5/2018

SANDUSKY - A sports-themed community event raising awareness for autism hit a home run with attendees.

About 50 people partook in the Free Night of Play initiative Wednesday at Sports Force Parks at Cedar Point Sports Center.

Adults took turns lobbing softballs and rolling kickballs to children, who, after socking both sets of balls, gleefully jogged around the bases.

Activities took place on Sports Force's Adaptive Field, a playing grounds specifically tailored for children with developmental disabilities.

Sports Force actively invites children in the local community and beyond with autism and other conditions to play at its facility. In fact, the complex received a prestigious state award for its all-inclusive approach. The state developmental disabilities department presented this recognition to staff during Gov. John Kasich's State of the State address last year in Sandusky.

April marks National Autism Awareness Month. Autism, in its simplest form, represents a complex developmental disability, affecting a person's ability to communicate and interact with others, according to the Autism Society.

To help commemorate the period, Sports Force personnel invited parents and their kids for its first autism-focused Free Night of Play.

"Our open play night is really a way for us to capitalize on Autism Awareness Month, and it speaks to that we are trying to grow our involvement in the community and give back to the community," Sports Force's event coordinator Mitchell Sweet said. "We have this field, and we try to showcase it as much as possible."

Among those appreciative of the initiative include Valerie Reesman, a Bellevue resident. She along with her son, Cobe, who is diagnosed with autism, attended Wednesday's event.

"It's a nice facility to come out, enjoy and engage with other kids to get some exercise," Reesman said. "It introduces them to things they normally wouldn't do. My son is kind of a homebody and doesn't engage. He has to work on his social skills. But (an event like this) really helps with his social skills. He can engage with other kids and not be pressured to win. He can go at his own pace and just enjoy it."

Throughout 2018, Sports Force personnel plan to host more events for children with developmental disabilities. For more information, visit

Reach reporter Andy Ouriel at and follow him on Twitter @AndyOuriel.


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