Executive director of League of Dreams
What is seen as a rite of passage for most is only a dream for others.
Putting on a uniform. Marching out onto the field. Being part of a team.
But that’s what Jessica Mathews does on a regular basis – make dreams a reality.
As executive director of League of Dreams, Jessica helps provide opportunities for kids with disabilities to participate in a variety of sports, to experience the thrill of rounding the bases, making a basket or bowling a strike while being cheered on by the crowd.
“My family put me in sports at a young age and I was able to play through my high school career,” she said. “Kids with disabilities typically don’t have that chance. I have many (parents) that were told your child will never talk, walk, be on a team, play sports, do anything that a normal child could do. Just even the thought of hearing that is so gut-wrenching, but to be the one receiving that information, it’s got to be heartbreaking.”
But the league provides opportunities for athletes to defy the odds and experience the joys of playing sports – something that benefits the entire family unit. Dads are able to play catch with their sons, moms get to see their kids put on a uniform and be part of a team and siblings get to cheer loudly from the stands.
“Some of our athletes have to have 100 percent help 100 percent of the time and that’s tough on parents, too,” Jessica said. “But to put some normalcy into their lives by giving their kids a chance to be out on a baseball diamond or a basketball court, it makes them feel like they’re normal, too.
“It’s so exciting and fun to see families come out for the first time or for the 100th time for a game. It’s a lot of fun and I think that’s why I’m so passionate about it is because I see the joy on their faces. I see the kids get to do something that they were told they would never do.”