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Bergenfield Challengers Brings Basketball To Youngsters With Special Needs

Bergenfield Mayor Norman Schmelz and volunteers have participated in the borough's Challenger programs that include sports for youngsters with special needs.
Bergenfield Mayor Norman Schmelz and volunteers have participated in the borough's Challenger programs that include sports for youngsters with special needs. Photo Credit: Irina Tesoriero via Facebook

BERGENFIELD, N.J. — Registration is underway for the Lou Harris Challenger Basketball Program that will run Jan. 16 - Mar. 12 in Bergenfield's Hoover School gym.

The program — which promotes a stigma-free environment — pairs more than two-dozen youngsters with special needs with buddies to learn the fundamentals of the game and good sportsmanship.

“The whole point was for us to give back to our communities,” said the basketball program's co-organizer Irina Tesoriero, who teamed up with her friend, Wendy Loszynski to run the activity for children with special needs.

Both Tesoriero and Loszynski have brought their own families into the mix — waking up early and volunteering on the courts.

Bergenfield Mayor Normal Schulz and his wife are expected to be dribbling on the courts with young players, Tesoriero said.

Event organizers prepare volunteers to work with any of the players with special needs — who range in age from 4 to 19 — in and around Bergenfield.

“A lot of parents appreciate that we provide that one-on-one contact," she said.

Friends of Tesoriero's have donated equipment, and share posters and plaques with participants. Others donated modified objects to help them play.

Some participants like “Jack” love to see people following their activities and photos on social media.

“These children need to feel love every day," she said. "I’m so honored to have the privilege to do it.”

Email Irina Tesoriero for more information.

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