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The Rolla Daily News - Rolla, MO
  • For a night, physically challenged are the stars

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  • INDEPENDENCE, Mo. (AP) — Briar Strunk was sitting on the couch with her parents when they began talking about a crisis they saw on the evening news.
     
    "Whenever people needed help, my mom and dad would talk about how they wished they could help," said 12-year-old Briar, who was paying more attention than her parents, Danny and Sandy Strunk, initially realized. "I began to think about ways I could help."
     
    Fast forward to the recent softball tournament at Hidden Valley Park, where organizers played host to the Exceptionals, a team made up of children who are physically or mentally unable to participate in other programs.
     
    For one night, their moms and dads get to sit in the stands and cheer for their youngsters as they are coached and helped by the young members of the Blue Springs area teams.
     
    "We were watching the parents of the Exceptionals," said Sandy Strunk, "and noticed that they were going around from team to team trying to find equipment. Most of them didn t have bats, softballs anything." That got Sandy, Danny and Briar to thinking about a way they could help.
     
    "On the drive home, Briar asked me about how we could collect some equipment for the Exceptionals," Sandy said, "so we set up a meeting with Chuck Hartley, the ASA director, and Briar went in and presented her idea."
     
    The idea of collecting equipment for the Exceptional youngsters was overwhelmingly approved and it was announced that teams could bring used equipment to the next tournament, where members of Briar s Swing Builder Lightning team manned barrels where the equipment could be donated.
     
    "It might have been Briar s idea, but it was a total team effort," said Sandy, as players manned barrels at the ASA Heartland World Series at Hidden Valley Park.
     
    "It was so much fun to see the barrels get filled with stuff," Briar said.
     
    "Now, when those kids want to play softball, their parents don t have to go and borrow gloves and bats from other teams."
     
    Briar, who attended Sunny Vale Middle School in Blue Springs last year, has moved to Warsaw, Mo., with her parents but she is eager to maintain a spot on the Swing Builder Lightning team next season.
     
    "It s going to be a little bit more of a drive — quite a little bit," joked Sandy, "but it will be worth it. Briar loves her team and she wants to be sure to work with the Exceptionals again next season."
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    Briar said collecting the used equipment is something she will always remember.
     
    "Most people have old equipment out in their garage that they don t use anymore, and now a special group of kids are going to be able to use it," she said.
     
    And just because she has moved from Blue Springs to Warsaw doesn't mean Briar s charitable side has diminished.
     
    "We went to the library the other day and they had a signup about a reading program for young kids," Sandy said. "There was Briar asking when she could volunteer to read to kids. Then she comes over and says, Mom, I'm going to read to kids.'
     
    "That s our Briar!"
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