Challenged Youth Sports allows special needs kids to ‘play ball’

Challenged Youth Sports (CYS), based in Middletown’s Lincroft section, is an all-volunteer organization offering programs for children with disabilities in seven athletic disciplines: baseball, soccer, basketball, flag football, tennis, golf and dance exercise.
The programs offer a chance for kids to participate in sports otherwise beyond their reach. On Friday, the Club heard an inspiring presentation from Paul Hooker, founder of CYS.
How it began

Hooker is a resident of Sea Girt and former owner of Sferra, a luxury linen company that he brought from $250,000 to over $300 million in sales during his tenure.

Hooker had always enjoyed sports and working with children and he had used his spare time to teach religion classes and coach or referee youth sports.

“In 1990 we had three kids under the age of 12,” said Hooker, the organization’s founder, referring to his wife, Margo. “I became the president of the Lincroft Little League.”

While attending a game one evening, Hooker chatted with Nicole B., a young girl who was confined to a wheelchair.

“This stinks,” Nicole told him, going on to explain she felt it was unfair her brothers were able to play sports, but there were no programs for kids like her.

Deciding to do something about that, Hooker consulted the members of Lincroft Little League’s board.

“We kind of improvised some rules and made them up as we went on,” he said.

The first season of Challenger Little League was a success, and parents wanted more. Challenged Youth Sports has expanded ever since.

“Who would have thought that from one little girl we’d get seven sports, dances and ice-skating?” mused Hooker.

How it is done
Local organizations provide facilities and help CYS procure some equipment. Local coaches offer their time, free of charge. Other local adults and teens do too. Volunteers keep the programs going.

“We are entirely volunteer-driven,” Hooker said. “We don’t get grants or tax-payer money. We do get occasional donations.”
Volunteers in the Challenger Buddy Program ensure kids participating in Challenged Youth Sports programs have someone on hand to help on a one-on-one level if needed.

“Without the teenagers, we’d have no programs,” Hooker said, noting there are always kids across Monmouth County who need to fulfill community service obligations for various religious or academic purposes.

“But a lot of them keep coming back.”

Hooker has now taken the league concept nationally under the name of Rally Cap Sports (
Paul indicated that he would be willing to provide guidance as the Rotary Club seeks to start a Challenger League right here in Long Branch. Stay tuned for more details on that!
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Rotary Club Installation Dinner on June 18 to benefit a Long Branch Challenger League

The Club announced its Annual Installation of Officers Dinner to be held Thursday June 18 from 6 to 9 p.m. at the Elks Club here in Long Branch. The Club will also be supported by the Long Branch PBA for the event and the proceeds from the event will go towards creating a Challenger League for Special Needs kids in Long Branch. Tickets are only $40 each and include a full dinner buffet, dessert and entertainment.

Please help support starting a special needs Challenger League here  in Long Branch. To purchase tickets visit For sponsorship information call Mike Ciavolino at 908-675-1146.

Talk on cancer treatement

`On Friday, May 29 the Club will hear from Dr. Edmund C. Lattime, Ph.D from the Rutgers Cancer Institute of NJ (CINJ), who will speak on “Harnessing the immune system for the treatment of cancer: What has changed?”

Recruited to the Cancer Institute in 1998, Dr. Lattime is well known for his work in tumor immunology. His laboratory studies the interaction between the tumor and immune response with the ultimate goal of developing effective cancer treatments that stimulate the body’s immune response’s recognition of cancer, thereby seeking to destroy the cancer.

Don’t miss this exciting and informative presentation, Friday May 29, noon, at Rooney’s Ocean Front Restaurant in Long Branch. The cost of lunch for the event is $20 and can be purchased at the door.

Please join us for our next meeting

The Club invites you to attend our next meeting, which will be held Friday, May 15 at noon at Rooney’s in Long Branch. The speakers will be Dr. Akthar / Tara Demyanovich on Colon Cancer Awareness.
Want to attend? Simply give us a call at (641) 715-3900 Ext #716992 to make a reservation or pay $20 lunch fee at the door. For more information, visit us at

Wondering what Rotary International and the Rotary Club of Long Branch is all about? Rotary’s 1.2 million members worldwide believe that helping to change the world starts with a personal commitment to “Service Above Self.”  In more than 34,000 clubs worldwide, you’ll find members volunteering in communities at home and abroad to support education and job training, provide clean water, combat hunger, improve health and sanitation, and eradicate polio.