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18

Oct, 2018

Allen receives Chuck Dubski Champions League Award

A search party wouldn’t have to go very far to find the extended Miller family on spring and summer Thursday evenings in Herrin, Illinois. The search party would best believe that they could find all of them working with the Herrin Jr. Ball League Champions League for players with special needs.

“It’s a whole big family event,” said Stephanie Allen, North Zone Softball and Champions League Director. “On Thursday nights, if you want to find our family, that’s where we are, down at the fields. My sister’s kids, my kids, everybody plays. We’re all together. It’s a good family thing.”

Allen has been a part of those Thursday nights for over 10 years, as she and the rest of her family have watched a program in which only four kids participated grow into one that has over 30 from all over Southern Illinois. At this past week’s annual PONY Board of Directors Meeting, the PONY Board of Directors awarded Allen with the Chuck Dubski Champions League Award in honor and dedication for her service to the Champions League.

“It’s a great honor,” said Allen. “It is an award that is very near and dear to the program and to us. The Champions League is very near and dear to our heart, to our family. I’m very humbled and honored.”

The Chuck Dubski Champions League Award is named in memory of PONY West Zone Region Director Charles Anthony “Chuck” Dubski Jr., who was an enthusiastic and tirelessly dedicated director who served the youth of the special needs community in his home of Moreno Valley, California and all over Southern California.  

It was when Allen’s father, North Zone Vice President Steve Miller witnessed a similar game for special needs youth during the 2005 USA Baseball Tournament of Stars in Joplin, Missouri that the idea for the Champions League was born. Inspired by his grandson Clay, Miller, with the help of his family and long-time friend North Zone, South Region Director Randy Crompton, started a local program for special needs youth. By 2009, the Champions League was unanimously adopted by the Board, and today, PONY Champions League games are being played as far away from Illinois as the Philippines and Japan.

“My son, of course, was a big inspiration to my dad for starting the program,” said Allen. “He had some health issues and wouldn’t have been able to participate, had it not been for a program like the Champions. It’s an amazing program that provides opportunities for kids who might not get the chance to play otherwise.”

Allen’s favorite memory with the Champions League was when many of the champions attended the 2009 World Series at Busch Stadium in St. Louis.

“Seeing their faces and how excited they were, in awe of being on a Major League Baseball field. That was one of my favorites. I won’t forget that.”

She said she was blown away this past summer at the Colt World Series when even the international players were jumping at the opportunity to play alongside the champions.

“Seeing those boys who were that age, acting like those kids were entirely normal and helping them with the smiles on their faces, even when they didn’t  speak the same language, they made those kids feel like they were apart of everything,” said Allen.

Allen’s overall goal for the Champions League is to continue to see growth and participation by players with parents, who may be apprehensive of them playing. She hopes for the day when her local community will build a more wheelchair-friendly field. For now, she enjoys the fact that the games are played at their community’s fields because other players jump in when passing by.

“We like having it at the ballpark, because there are other games going on and it’s great for those kids to come by and cheer and play on the same field,” said Allen.

Allen teaches at North Side Primary Center in Herrin and lives with her husband Danny. They have two children, Clay and Sydney. To learn more about the PONY Champions League, go here.

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