Shining bright: Hartselle’s inclusive rec league empowers all on the softball field
Photos by Rachel Howard
In the heart of Hartselle, there’s a remarkable program that’s making a world of difference in the lives of children and adults with special needs. The Hartselle Shining Stars, a therapeutic initiative offered by Hartselle Parks and Recreation, is illuminating the community with its mission to enhance the quality of life for individuals facing physical and intellectual challenges.
The Shining Stars program is more than just a recreational outlet; it’s a beacon of hope and inclusivity in a world that often falls short of recognizing the unique abilities and potential of every individual. With a focus on acceptance, respect and a nurturing, noncompetitive environment, this program is a lifeline for many.
Staci Wells recently retired from the City of Hartselle after nearly 30 years. She remains the director of the program that will soon expand to Decatur, and hopefully, beyond.
The Shining Stars, Wells said, got started thanks to her son Sawyer McCormick, who now volunteers for the league.
“Sawyer didn’t have anything to do and here I was in recreation, so I got to work trying to find a way to provide a program for kids like him,” Wells said. “At the time, Sparkman School had a spring softball league, so we started one in the fall. That’s how we got started.”
Dedicated to individuals aged six years old and older, the Shining Stars program provides opportunities for the participants to engage in activities and sports leagues tailored to their needs and preferences. Currently, participants can enjoy basketball, softball and bowling leagues, offering them a chance to explore their physical abilities and build camaraderie with their peers.
But the offerings of the Hartselle Shining Stars go far beyond sports, Wells said. The Shining Stars understand that true connection and personal growth come from a diverse range of experiences. That’s why they also host a summer day camp, family game nights, craft classes, pageants, dances and more. These events create a safe and welcoming space for individuals to come together for fun, friendship and the chance to be celebrated for who they are.
The networking and support system Shining Stars offers families and parents is also second to none, according to Brenda Caudle. Her daughters Sarea and Adreona are involved in the league and look forward to every activity.
“It’s an amazing program,” Caudle said. “The support among the parents and the feeling of inclusion it offers our special needs community is so needed and appreciated.”
For the Hartselle Shining Stars program, inclusion knows no bounds. The league, its sponsors, athletes, volunteers and participants testify to the power of a community that recognizes and celebrates the unique abilities of every individual, fostering an environment where everyone can shine bright. In the heart of Hartselle, these stars are indeed lighting up the world, one activity at a time.
For those interested in learning more about the program or becoming a volunteer, the Shining Stars team is just a phone call or email away. Contact Hartselle Parks and Recreation at (256) 773-2581.