Jeff brought the idea back to the group and it didn’t take long before the team had agreed that a mini-pitch should be part of Camp’s multipurpose field plans. Thanks to additional funding from Iowa’s Kick It Forward (who also helped fund the mini-pitch project in Marion that first got Jeff’s attention) and Target, everything was falling into place.
“For this project, the three of us met at least once a week (Friday mornings at 7 AM), and there wasn’t a day that went by in between that we weren’t talking on the phone and emailing,” recalls Charlie. “Jeff is super organized and stays to a process that keeps us all moving in the same direction. Kaite is also extraordinary. She brings the enthusiasm and excitement of the campers to the table. She is a go getter and has opened many wonderful doors for Camp.”
“The reason that we really were pushing for the mini-pitch is because it makes sports barrier free for our individuals,” says Kaite. “Meaning there’s not a surface, there’s not something that’s going to stop them from being able to play, which is what Camp Courageous is about: giving individuals opportunities no matter their ability.”
Another key element about the mini-pitch that appealed to the Camp team was the nature of the enclosed system. “We thought, ‘How cool…this means that the ball will always be in play,’” says Kaite. “Sometimes if the ball goes away from our campers when we’re playing, their attention span is gone, and they’ve moved on.
“This will just open our doors so much more to different programming and being able to try soccer where maybe they wouldn’t be able to because they utilize a walker or a wheelchair,” she continues. “And the grass kind of stops them from being able to move as fast as maybe another kid would be able to.”
Six-year-old camper Chance is a goalie and has been playing soccer for five years with Special Olympics. “It’s hard to keep the ball in play on a regular soccer field,” he says. “Grass makes it harder to roll the ball and you can lose it.” He’s most excited about getting to play on the mini-pitch at Camp with friends. “Everyone has different abilities,” he shares, “and everyone has different ways of playing.”
Sean is a counselor at Camp Courageous and also notes the importance of control for campers. “With this mini-pitch, campers can be in control of the ball,” he says. “That element of control is not something that campers necessarily have in other aspects of their lives, which is what’s exciting about the mini-pitch and the opportunity for continuous play.”
While the excitement for the mini-pitch was palpable, bringing the mini-pitch to Camp did not come without a hitch. But the ability of all partners to work together for important change has been a key element of the process.
While the mini-pitch system’s gates are ADA-compliant, they were not accessible for individuals in power wheelchairs due to the width and the larger nature of power wheelchairs, whose wheels curve out at an angle.
So, Camp Courageous worked with engineers at Musco Lighting to adjust the width of the gates to 42 inches to make the entry points more accessible. This new width will also be the standard width for all mini-pitches going forward.
“This project really helped us move that process forward and say, ‘You know what, we want to make this a universal design so that anyone can play,’” says Musco Lighting’s Karen Ventura. “We talk about inclusivity and that includes everyone. This change is really significant.”