Local charity brings ballpark fun to people with disabilities

Baseball fans began pouring into JetBlue Park in Fort Myers this weekend to catch a glimpse of the 2019 Boston Red Sox in action. In attendance was an organization that makes sure every fan feels comfortable in the stands.

Game Day Bunch, Inc. attends spring training in Southwest Florida to provide a game-changing experience for people with disabilities.

“So excited,” Kathleen Butler said. “Definitely a Red Sox fan, and to be here at opening day is just a dream come true.”

Butler was elated for the chance to see her favorite team put on a pre-season performance at Fenway South.

“I never thought things like this would happen for me,” Butler said.

Butler is someone Game Day Bunch looks to provide fun experiences for at the park. Butler still remembers what it felt like to be unable to move and is still recovering from a traumatic brain injury.

“I was rear-ended by a drunk driver,” Butler said. “It’s been difficult, challenging but fulfilling in coming back from where there was not much hope for me to where I am today feeling like you can’t tell that I have a disability.”

Butler has a smile on her face, as she mingles with other people at the ballpark with others who know what it feels like to live with a disability.

“It’s very inspiring to see what people have gone through,” Butler said.

It’s a special ballpark experience for people with special needs, and it’s possible because of one woman’s goal to give back.

“I was touched by disability in my life. Both my parents had a disability,” said Co-founder Catherine McKinzie. “When my mom lost her legs, she didn’t want to leave the house.”

McKinzie said it was spring training that helped her mother overcome anxiety and regain her ability to socialize.

“I thought, you know, this could change other people’s lives, and in fact it has,” McKinzie said. “We’ve brought several hundred people to the ballpark, people who have physical disabilities, emotional disabilities, intellectual disabilities, little kids to seniors.”

Game Day Bunch works with JetBlue Park to make sure the ballpark’s accessible for people with disabilities.

The non-profit foundation also attended the Minnesota Twins opening day at Hammond Stadium in the CenturyLink Sports Complex in Fort Myers this weekend to provide a game-day experience for people there.

“To focus on what they can do as opposed to what they can’t, just really, really rewarding,” McKinzie said.

Reporter:Melinda Lee
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