Ozarks Life: Champions Committed to Kids helping build confidence

CCK matches kids fighting chronic illness or disabilities with area sports teams
Published: Sep. 10, 2021 at 5:29 AM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - Sometimes just being a part of a team is a victory. There’s a local organization helping kids achieve an exciting, Ozarks Life.

On an unassuming September evening, stupendous things are happening in North Springfield

On this night you’ll find a Missouri Sports Hall of Fame Legend, and one of the best women to ever play college basketball, line-up to get autographs from area kids.

“They’re the stars of the show,” former KY3 Sports Director Ned Reynolds said. “All we are the hangers on. And it’s so great to see them bubbling and smiling.”

For 12-years, Champions Committed to Kids has linked children with fighting chronic illness or disabilities with local high school and college sports teams.

“When we first started this,” co-founder Jeff Collins said, “this was all about helping kids who never will have a chance to get to play ball on Friday nights. To get to experience team camaraderie.”

The night begins with a lengthy autograph session and wraps up with the kids stepping on stage in front of a crowded venue.

“It was mainly about taking them out of the corner and putting them in the spotlight,” co-founder Todd Edwards said. “They’re never gonna be able to experience what they see on TV. But tonight, they will be able to do that.

Rick Jester and Art Hains use their iconic voices to welcome the kids in front of other teams, coaches, and fans. At a table for all to see, they sign their letter of intent to manage or cheer with their favorite local programs.

It’s a commitment written in pen. But it might as well be a blood oath after seeing their dedication.

“The boys really likes me,” Dmitry Robertson said about joining the Missouri State Ice Bears Hockey program. “ I get them all riled up and everything when I go in the locker rooms they just really liked me.”

Kiana Cavero is getting ready to lead thousands into a cheer at Missouri State football and basketball games.

“(They’re) so kind and patient and welcoming,” Kiana’s father Fernando Cavero said. “I was just really impressed with their maturity and their ability to incorporate her into their team. So it really gave her a sense of community. It was wonderful.”

For Ethan Clifford, other than Star Wars and Legos, the Kickapoo football Chiefs is his passion.

“This means everything to me,” Ethan said. “So, so amazing. I really like it.”

“It means the world because my son has never been a part of a team like this,” Ethan mother Angel Clifford said. “To have the opportunity for him, and all these other kids, to be involved in something like this... I really have no words to describe it. I will sit and cry. That’s how much it means to me.”

These new signees could be responsible for everything from getting water to giving a pregame speech.

“He’s our hype guy,” Rogersville baseball coach Casey Ledl says about their signee, Chevy George. “He brings the energy in the dugout. When things aren’t going well, we turn around and Chevy is usually right in the middle and all the guys trying to get hyped up.”

And the kids smiles aren’t the only things gained from the experience.

“You just see a young man that has some difficulties in life, but you wouldn’t know it,” Evangel football coach Chuck Hepola said about their signee, Jeffrey Skwirut. “I mean, he’s always got a smile on his face, he’s having a great time. And our young men can see that and learn from that. And obviously, it’s perspective.”

“Parents have told me numerous times that has been life changing,” Collins said. “It has absolutely been life changing for their kids.”

For more information, you can visit the Champions Committed to Kids website or Facebook page.

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