MASON CITY, Iowa – The North Iowa Area Community College (NIACC) baseball team wrapped up its regular season at home on Monday but the Trojans weren’t just there to play baseball. They were also there to raise awareness to autism which according to the Autism Society is prevalent in one of 59 births.
“Brody was diagnosed on the spectrum about three years ago,” said NIACC head coach, Travis Hergert. “We had our suspicions when he was about two – two-and-a-half. There’s not many two-year-olds that can count to 100 and know all of the alphabet and shapes.”
Hergert is referring to his son who was diagnosed with Autism in July 2016. Soon after, Hergert was encouraged by two fellow coaches to hold an autism awareness game. The proceeds would be earmarked for the Children’s Autism Center at One Vision.
“For us, it’s more of a celebration to honor not only the staff at the Children’s Autism Center but also the families we’ve gotten to know that receive services over there and those that we’ve gotten to know through this process,” Hergert added.
The results have been amazing.
“Last year we raised close to $3,000.”
While the money raised through the event is a win of its own, perhaps the bigger victory is the relationships. That includes the one Jake Hansen has with a young man named Asher.
“I don’t really know how it happened, we just ended up being next to each other and he clung onto me right away and we’ve had a special bond ever since then,” said Hansen. “We ran around the bases and the second time they came, he gave me a bracelet that says ‘Asher True Eppens’ on it so I’ve been wearing that every game since.”
While the Trojans swept Luther College 11-0, the game served as a reminder to be aware of one’s blessings.
“It’s a game at the end of the day,” said Shane Kelleher. “Sometimes we take things for granted like getting annoyed if you don’t get a hit or something. He’s probably never going to play it in his life which is a little bit sad and puts things into perspective for us and how lucky we are.”