BRADLEY BEACH — RallyCap Sports – a volunteer sports program for children and young adults with special needs that has expanded from Central Jersey to locations throughout the nation – is hosting weekly beach volleyball games in Bradley Beach this summer.
Boys and girls, ages seven and up, with any special needs including emotional, intellectual or developmental, are invited out to participate in RallyCap’s beach volleyball sessions, where local families and volunteers come together for fun-filled volleyball sessions.
The sessions are held every Wednesday beginning at 6:30 p.m. through Aug. 10 on the beachfront at Cliff and Ocean Avenues.
The volunteer-driven nonprofit, founded over 30 years ago in Middletown, partnered with the borough five years ago for the activity, via an agreement with Great American Volleyball, which uses the nets on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
‘A win-win for all’
Mayor Larry Fox said that this is a “win-win” for all.
“Everyone seems happy with the arrangement, and we are happy there is such good collaboration,” said the mayor.
Jessica Hunter directs the beach volleyball sessions, assisted by Clare Coperman and her brother Will of Communications High School in Wall Township.
“At RallyCap, we believe that every person with special needs should have the opportunity to participate in sports, just like any other kid,” said Paul Hooker, the organization’s founder.
The organization began over three decades ago with one chapter, offering Little League softball in Middletown.
Today, the organization has evolved to offer adaptive baseball, basketball, soccer, golf, yoga, ice hockey, flag football, cheerleading, dancercise and more.
“RallyCap has 17 locations in six states and with an army of over 3,200 volunteers that have brought the joy of sports to more than 1,900 people with special needs,” noted Mr. Hooker.
Luisa Rinaudo oversees the nonprofit’s programs as the central New Jersey director of Rally Cap Sports.
Representatives from the Asbury Park/Wall Elks 128, District Deputy Tom Gardner and Exalted Ruler Jeremiah Taylor presented a $800 check to sponsor the volleyball program for the second year in a row.
“It’s just terrific,” said Mr. Hooker. “They are just the greatest people, they say what can we do for you, how can we help you and it’s the greatest thing.”
According to Luke Sims, executive director of RallyCap Sports, “A long-time participant in our Central New Jersey chapter came up with the idea of adding beach volleyball. We thought it was a great idea to get our participants and volunteers out on the beach to have some fun.”
Mr. Sims said that beach volleyball has been a “big hit” and that the organization is thankful for the support of the Asbury Park/Wall Elks and Borough of Bradley Beach.
“There is nothing better than playing some beach volleyball in the sand with the sun setting on a Jersey beach,” added Mr. Sims. “We hope to have beach volleyball for many years to come.”
RallyCap Sports encourages the community to support their programs and help create a world where people of all abilities can share in the joy of sports.
Funding covers the costs of facility rentals, adaptive sports equipment, T-shirts, trophies and more.
A “rally cap” is a baseball cap worn inside-out and backward or in some other manner by players and fans to will a team or player to a come-from-behind victory.
The name RallyCap Sports emerged because of its unique way of encapsulating what RallyCap Sports is all about — encouraging communities to rally together behind children and young adults with special needs so they can participate in sports they once only dreamed of, according to the organization.
RALLYCAP SPORTS BEGINNINGS
Mr. Hooker shared with The Coast Star the story of the nonprofit organization’s beginnings.
When Mr. Hooker was coaching a Little League baseball team one day in 1990, in Lincroft, he turned to a little girl in a wheelchair and asked her how she was doing. Frustrated with watching from the sidelines as her brother played, the little girl replied, “This stinks.” That two-word answer sparked a mission to create a program that would enable children and young adults of all abilities to enjoy and participate in sports.
Driven by this newfound philosophy, Paul and his wife Margo began a grass-roots softball league in their Middletown hometown, called Challenged Youth Sports in 1990. Over the years, the small league grew from a single-sport season to a year-round organization with nearly a dozen sports, impacting hundreds of families in the region.
As the 25th anniversary of Challenged Youth Sports approached, a new mission became clear: serve the special needs community on a national scale. In 2014 the organization reinvented itself as RallyCap Sports, and set out to create regional chapters at universities across the nation. RallyCap Sports launched its first chapter at Bowling Green State University, establishing the model for future chapters. Now at 18 locations across seven states, RallyCap Sports is bringing recreational sports opportunities to hundreds of people with special needs and providing life-changing volunteer opportunities to thousands of volunteers.
“Now approaching our 32nd year, RallyCap to date has impacted the lives of nearly 2,000 children and young adults with special needs with the support of over 3,200 volunteers, who combined have provided more than 65,000 hours of community service,” said Mr. Hooker.
“We only have two paid employees. Luke Sims is our executive director and Lily Alten is our operations manager. Recent Seton Hall University graduate Luisa Rinaudo is our newly hired Central New Jersey director in a part-time capacity. Longtime volunteer Debbie Lapicco assists operationally as well,” said Mr. Hooker.
RallyCap Sports founding chapter provides a year-round recreational sports program for hundreds of people with special needs in the central and coastal New Jersey area including: beach volleyball in Bradley Beach, Little League softball in Lincroft, flag football at Red Bank Catholic High School in Red Bank, basketball at Middletown High School South and Thompson Middle School in Middletown, soccer with the Middletown Soccer Club at Nut Swamp Elementary School in Middletown. Various other activities include: yoga, dancercise, tennis, golf, Halloween and Valentine’s dances, and more.
“We need adult volunteers who have the interest to devote just eight to 10 hours a year to our program to please contact us,” said Mr. Hooker.
For more information and to make a donation to RallyCap Sports, visit www.rallycapsports.org or call 732-391-2282.
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