Pittsburgh Pirates Baseball Player Andy LaRoche Helps Down Syndrome Children

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Oct 1, 2009   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Pittsburgh Pirates Baseball Player Andy LaRoche Helps Down Syndrome Children

by Maria Vitale
LifeNews.com Editorial Columnist
October 1, 2009

LifeNews.com Note: Maria Vitale is an opinion columnist for LifeNews.com. She is the Public Relations Director for the Pennsylvania Pro-Life Federation and Vitale has written and reported for various broadcast and print media outlets, including National Public Radio, CBS Radio, and AP Radio.

When I visited the official site of the Pittsburgh Pirates’ baseball club, I heard an announcer on a web site video proclaiming, "What a day for Andy LaRoche!" The caption underneath the video talked about how the player had scored his second homerun of the day.

But I had not come to the website looking for baseball stats. I had come searching for more information about how a gifted athlete had reached out to children with special needs.

I had been alerted to LaRoche’s generosity by Kurt Kondrich, a Pennsylvanian who is the proud father of Chloe, a little girl with Down syndrome who had captured LaRoche’s heart.

A recent edition of the Pirates Insider Magazine describes how LaRoche had invited Chloe and her brother Nolan to PNC Park for a day of practice hits and hanging out with Pirates players. According to the magazine, LaRoche has set a goal of making a difference in the lives of Down syndrome children, and invitations to the ball park are one way to make that happen.

LaRoche is going so far as to provide game tickets and food vouchers to the Down syndrome families who become part of the program. He’s making these special needs children feel as special as they are.

Unfortunately, an early diagnosis is often a death sentence for children with Down syndrome. It is estimated that 90 percent of all preborn children who are diagnosed with the disability in the womb are aborted. This legal, lethal form of discrimination is wiping out an entire class of people–people who could greatly enrich our families, our communities, our country.

Last year, President Bush signed a law requiring that information be given to families who receive a diagnosis of Down syndrome, prenatally or a year after birth. The information includes facts about the condition and links to support services.

But, just as with all forms of discrimination, passing laws is just one part of the puzzle. We also need to change the culture–to break down the barriers of ignorance and misunderstanding.

Sports figures are powerful role models for people of all ages. By reaching out to children with Down syndrome, Pittsburgh Pirate Andy LaRoche is knocking one out of the ball park for a group of people who all too often have been banned from society’s field of play.

By bringing a special needs child up to bat, LaRoche is sending the message that every child, no matter what his or her disability, deserves a run at life.

As Kurt Kondrich says of his daughter Chloe, "Chloe is an angelic messenger sent down to wake up people and show what a priceless gift children with Down syndrome and disabilities are to a world that has lost its way."

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