“I have the time to give back, and with all the support and stuff that has happened with our family, why wouldn’t I give back.”
Those are the words from Austin Strantz as he kept score, engaged with the players, and managed the penalty box this past weekend for We Love to Play’s weekly gathering. Strantz’s name was at the top of the Blizzard Foundation’s volunteer list this past weekend.
In December of 2016, Austin and his family lost their home due to a fire that started in their garage and spread to the remainder of the house. Blizzard Baseball Academy along with Complete Game and Great Lakes Baseball Academy hosted a HIT-A-THON, raising more than $2,500 for the Strantz family.
Blizzard Foundation volunteers spent this past Saturday at the Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Center in Golden Valley; volunteers helped We Love to Play set-up and manage their weekly game. We Love to Play is a nonprofit that provides ongoing opportunities for adults with disabilities to play adapted sports at a low cost.
Every week We Love to Play gathers at Courage Kenny to take part in some sort of recreational game. The weekly games change with the season; fall brings football and soccer, winter turns into hockey, and spring brings softball.
“We are a very unique program. We are literally the only organization that does this.” Mark Braun, Vice President of We Love to Play continued, “Once you graduate [high school], there just aren’t any options for adapted athletes to play anywhere. We Love to Play provides that opportunity.”
The day ended with an 8-4 victory for the offensively driven ‘Blue Team’.Mark Braun, an Irondale graduate, was born with spinal bifida (a condition that impacts the development of the spinal cord). Braun did not let this condition keep him from competing. He was the first athlete to compete in wheelchair track and field after the Minnesota High School league expanded to allow wheelchair athletes. Braun also competes for Team USA and is hoping to be an Olympic medal winner in the future. ( If you are up for the task, you can race Braun at the Science Museum with the help of the “Sportsology” exhibit.)
“This is definitely something all kids should experience. It was cool to see the same competitive nature throughout this game that I have on the baseball field.” Strantz continued, weighing in on the day. “People would think we are so different, but really some of them are just in wheelchairs and I’m not.”
Strantz concluded, “It’s always a good day when you can give back and help others.”