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Panthers celebrate Challenger league


CHARLOTTE – The Carolina Panthers Challenger Flag Football program recently celebrated the conclusion of an 11th successful season with a jamboree on the Panthers practice fields for the growing list of participants.

From a single partnership between the Panthers, Mecklenburg County Park & Recreation and Pop Warner in 2005, the program is now thriving in six markets across the Carolinas. The program provides children and young adults with physical and developmental disabilities with the opportunity to play in a structured flag football program that includes Spirit Squad cheerleading. Carolina Panthers Charities provides grant funding so the league can be offered at little or no cost to participants.

"The Challenger Flag Football League is a special program for the Carolina Panthers," director of community relations Riley Fields said. "We value our partnership with recreation departments across the region who help provide such a rich experience for kids and young adults with special needs."

Fields cited some of the unique outcomes of the program.

"In addition to giving deserving kids the experience of playing on a team, the real joy is seeing the development of social skills, confidence levels and physical mobility of the players and cheerleaders," he said. "The enthusiasm of the players is also shared by the staffs of our park and recreation partners and the amazing volunteers that help coach the teams."

The Therapeutic Recreation division of Mecklenburg County Park & Recreation co-hosted the event, which welcomed participants from Columbia Parks and Recreation, Durham Parks and Recreation, Henderson-Vance Recreation and Parks, Mecklenburg County Park & Recreation, North Mecklenburg Challenger Flag Football and the Richland County Recreation Commission.

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