PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Like most kids, 10-year-old Ethan Krell loves to run, jump, and climb.
But Ethan hops over unseen hurdles too as a child with autism, says dad Jason Krell.
“We know there are struggles ahead, but just don’t judge,” Krell said.
With hundreds of children like Ethan in mind, the New Jersey-based Bancroft organization hosted the Ninja Warrior Challenge on Sunday morning at the Camden Baseball Stadium.
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Bancroft helps thousands of people with special needs in the community each year.
“Nowhere do we have the chance for our kids to experience these kinds of programs. They’re merely designed for mainstream children and don’t accommodate the unique needs of those we serve at Bancroft and throughout the community,” said Dennis Morgan, Senior Vice President of Services at Bancroft.
Inspired by the show American Ninja Warrior, designers built this obstacle course specifically for children with special needs, just in time to cap off Autism Awareness Month in April.
And the takeaway organizers hope is this: that the obstacles these kids may face on or off this field can always be overcome.
“That’s what autism means to me: different not less. It means we can do anything if we work at it,” said 21-year-old Tyler Karwacki, who has autism, and is studying math through the Adult Center for Transition program at Rowan College’s Gloucester County campus.
These are moments made memorable by a mission to make every experience more accessible to every child.
“Inclusion is something I believe in and I think our children should be included in regular education and in the community as well,” said Bonita Mccavee of Hatfield, Pennsylvania, whose 20-year-old daughter, Nikki, has autism. “Children with autism, there are no physical characteristics that make them stand out from any other disability, so when they are in the community or make weird movements, people tend to look at them as if they’re weird and they’re not. She’s just a young lady with autism.”
Marshall Saponaro of Marlton, New Jersey also celebrated his fifteenth birthday Sunday by going through the obstacle course.
“It’s so important for these children to be around each other and power up and just be one and be free,” said mother Sandra Saponaro.