Carmel Dads’ Club is an institution in this town. The CDC engine is powered by parents who want their children to be a part of a team sport experience. Jerry Newkirk is an example of a typical CDC parent. Jerry had two sons participating in the various sports offered, and he was a coach for their teams. But living next door to Jerry was a boy who couldn’t join in the fun with his sons due to physical limitations. So way back in 1985, Jerry decided to act. The results of his action means every year there are more winners than there might otherwise have been.
Thanks to Jerry Newkirk, the Carmel Dads’ Club Special Sports program was launched in 1985. Jerry oversaw its development and ran the program until 1993. That is when the Hutnicke family stepped up to offer their expertise. Frank Hutnicke ran the program until 1996 and his wife stepped up a year later and has been overseeing operations for the past 15 years. Carrie Hutnicke, with the help of so many, has successfully built a powerful program that offers an athletic opportunity to school age children in the Indianapolis area with physical and emotional disabilities.
That first year, six kids gathered together to master their tee ball skills. This season, more than 175 athletes participate in tee ball, soccer, soapbox derby, tennis, volleyball, basketball and bowling. They master each sport by drilling on the key skills necessary for each sport. Helping the kids each Saturday is a body of area high school students who volunteer their time to assist each athlete. Many of the athletes in the Special Sports Program require one-on-one coaching.
In 2000, Rod Richardson, a local businessman and a previous subject of this column, decided to help raise money for an endowment to support the program. For the next eight years, Rod and Carrie labored to produce the Carmel Food & Wine Fest, which ended up netting enough money to create the Rod Richardson and Carrie Hutnicke Fund for Special Sports. The fund ensures the Special Sports program will be free to all future participants forever.
Just as Carmel Dads’ Club is a feeder program for athletes moving on to high school and college sports, the Special Sports program is also a feeder. Every Saturday morning, special needs athletes wake up knowing they can be part of a team and contribute. With hard work, dedication and a sense of purpose, they are in the hunt for something greater, like a Special Olympics gold, silver or bronze medal.