Fairport man recipient of Little League's Challenger Award | Community Service
Mark Muench, of Fairport, has been the Director of the Challenger Program for Fairport Perinton Little League since 2003. And for his many years of volunteer work with the program, Muench is the 2010 recipient of Little League's 2010 Challenger Award.
Started in 1989, the Challenger Division services more than 30,000 children worldwide, ages 5 to 18. The Little League Challenger Award was established in 1998 and annually acknowledges the efforts of an individual who exemplifies the Little League ideal of providing all youngsters an opportunity to play baseball regardless of their ability.
Little League’s Challenger Division was established to give mentally and physically challenged boys and girls the opportunity to enjoy the full benefit of participation in a Little League program structured to their abilities. There are more than 1,900 teams and almost 30,000 players in this division of the Little League organization.
“Back in the early 90s, I was walking back through the ball park after one of our son’s games,” Muench said when talking about how he found out about the Challenger program. “As we walked, I noticed a game being played by special needs children on one of the diamonds. I made an immediate turn and went over to see what this was. I was immediately hooked and signed up our son, Andrew, for the program the next day. I didn’t have any idea a program such as that existed.”
After the chance introduction, Mr. Muench continued to attend games for all three of his triplet sons, Brian and Christopher, who were working their way through the various divisions of Little League, and Andrew, who plays in the Challenger Division. In 2003, Muench was approached by the league to direct the Challenger Division.
Not only has Mr. Muench helped the Challenger program grow, he has played a role in programs being developed in two neighboring communities. He has also been instrumental in securing donations for such things as making the dugouts wheelchair accessible, upgrading the uniforms and hats, securing an infield mix that allows for easy movement of wheel chairs and gates that allow for easy access to the field for wheel chairs.
Since November, Mr. Muench has been fighting a personal battle, recovering from surgery to remove a brain tumor and the ensuing treatments. But, through it all, he has been able to maintain his duties and be in attendance at Challenger games.
“The kids in the program look forward to each Saturday and being able to get out and play,” Mr. Muench said. “The excitement on their faces makes it worth any work that it takes to be able to offer the program.”
Mr. Muench has also been an instrumental part of an annual Challenger World Series held each June. The World Series is played at Frontier Field. Challenger teams from six area communities, Fairport, Greece, Webster, Finger Lakes, Penfield and Pittsford, participate along with the Red Wing players.
Mr. Muench was also recently recognized by the Rochester Press-Radio Club with the Christine Wagner Welch Inspiration Award. In addition, he has also volunteered his time working for numerous local organizations and causes such as the St. John Fisher Alumni Association, Strong Memorial Hospital and a Christmas Fund established by his business that distributes funds during the holidays to local charities.
“I am overwhelmed to be named the recipient of this award from Little League,” Mr. Muench said. “I’m not sure I deserve it, but I will accept it on behalf of everyone at Fairport Perinton Little League and all the people in the Challenger program in the state of New York.”
Little League Baseball and Softball is the world’s largest organized youth sports program, with nearly 2.6 million players and 1 million adult volunteers in every U.S. state and scores of other countries.