Her Voice: Moorhead woman takes on ambitious projects inspired by her sonsMOORHEAD – Karen Swanson, a Moorhead mom of two sons with autism, noticed there was a shortage of activities for kids with special needs. The realization has prompted her involvement in two projects inspired by her sons.
By: Tracy Frank, INFORUM
Her Voice is a weekly article about women in or from our area and how they make an impact on the world around them. If you know someone SheSays should feature in HerVoice, email Tracy Frank at firstname.lastname@example.org.
MOORHEAD – Karen Swanson, a Moorhead mom of two sons with autism, noticed there was a shortage of activities for kids with special needs.
The realization has prompted her involvement in two projects inspired by her sons.
First, Swanson and her sons’ speech therapist, Kendra Routh, decided to start a baseball team. They couldn’t find any organizations interested in taking on the team, so they opened their own Little League charter, which accepts kids from a 50-mile radius around Fargo-
They expected a few kids to participate, but they had 40 kids sign up the first year, 80 kids sign up the following year and they’ve been holding steady at about 100 kids ever since.
Any child through high-school with a special need is accepted to one of the eight teams, which play each other. Some players have autism; others have Downs Syndrome, cerebral palsy, traumatic brain injury or use wheelchairs.
There are about 45 volunteers who help make the games happen.
“Most of our volunteers come back year after year because it’s so fun,” Swanson said. “It’s very humbling that so many people would come out and help us. I’m very thankful that we have a community where people are willing to give of their time and help others out.”
There are no scores, no outs, and everyone gets a chance to bat. Some kids hit the ball off of a tee, and others hit a pitched ball.
“They love being part of a team,” Swanson said. “They cheer each other on. It’s a very supportive environment.”
Swanson gets donations from local businesses to help fund the teams. Participants pay $28 for a 10-week session.
Swanson is also working with several parents of kids with special needs on starting a rural group home called Farm in the Dell for adults with special needs.
“It’s been shown in several different studies that people with special needs or mental illnesses do better and feel better when they do gardening or have a chance to work with animals,” Swanson said, adding that it’s calming and rewarding work.
The rural group home will be a place where men and women with special needs can live and work. The group is working on raising money and hopes someone will donate land in Clay County for the project. Ideally, they would like around 20 acres close to town so they can hold community events like harvest days, lunches and a pumpkin patch, Swanson said.
If it’s close to town, the farm could also be a place where people with special needs could work even if they don’t want to live there, she said.
One of their fundraisers is selling produce they’ve been growing at Catalyst Medical Community Garden in Fargo. The produce is available from 1:30 to 5:30 p.m. Thursdays at a stand in the parking lot of Knights of Columbus in Moorhead, 915½ Main Ave.
Donations can also be made at farminthedellrrv.org.
Readers can reach Forum reporter Tracy Frank at (701) 241-5526
HOW TO HELP
Karen Swanson’s teams play on FM Rotary Miracle Field in Moorhead, which has a special rubbery turf to make it easier for kids with mobility issues or wheel chairs.
The Fargo-Moorhead Rotary Clubs built the field and raise money for it through their Rotary Ride, a distance bicycling event taking place this Saturday. The five Fargo-Moorhead Rotary Clubs sponsor the fundraiser. The 11-mile route starts at 9:20 a.m. and has an entry fee of $10. The 43-mile route starts at 9 a.m. and costs $20. Both begin in Lindenwood Park.