Wounded Warrior Amputee Team holds first-ever softball kids camp in Mission Viejo

MISSION VIEJO, Calif. (KABC) -- Like any 8-year-old, Clay Watson is excited to hit the softball field, but unlike most kids, Watson, who was born without a full left arm, is learning another way to grip the baseball bat.

He's among 20 children, between 8-12 years old, taking part in the first-ever West Coast Wounded Warrior Amputee Softball Team's Kids Camp.

The camp, which is being held in Mission Viejo between June 8-13, allows children living with amputations or missing limbs to be coached and mentored by amputee veterans.

"It's pretty awesome because they were in the Army and they know how it feels to be missing a limb," said Watson, who traveled with his parents from Sugar Land, Texas for the weeklong camp.

"We all kind of help each other. The kids help us too," said Nicholas Clark, who was a 27-year-old infantryman with the 173rd Airborne. He lost his leg below the knee after his Humvee was ambushed in Afghanistan in 2007. Now, a competitive skateboarder from Puyallup, Washington, Clark, like the other veterans, volunteers his time at the kids camp.

"We're giving back not only to veterans but [to these] kids and these kids will give back to other kids. It's like this huge chain reaction of positive good vibes," Clark said.

"They're the real heroes and the fact [that] they're giving up their vacation time to help these kids learn is just so amazing," said Watson's father, Matt as he watched his son practice with the veterans in the outfield at Marty Russo Youth Athletic Park.

The kids are learning more than just softball.

"We have one of our players who's missing his whole shoulder quadrant. He, last year, taught one of the kids who was missing his arm how to tie his shoes with one hand," recalled Susan Rodio, founder of the kids camp.

The skills they're learning on the field will all come together with a special doubleheader event at Saddleback College Friday night.

The non-profit is holding two softball games, starting with the kids playing against the kids. The veterans, who travel across the country competing against able-bodied athletes, will then take on the Orange County all-stars.

Clark, who has been with the Wounded Warrior Amputee Softball Team from the start, says they hold the winning record over the last five years.

The opening ceremony begins at 6:30 p.m. Friday at Saddleback College at 2800 Marguerite Parkway in Mission Viejo. Entry and parking to the event are free. The gates to the event open at 5:45 p.m.

Officials say the mission of the Wounded Warrior Amputee Softball Team (WWAST) is to inspire and educate others while enhancing the health and welfare of wounded warrior amputees.

For more information on the non-profit organization, visit http://woundedwarrioramputeesoftballteam.org/kids-camp.
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