THE BLOG
07/13/2014 08:54 am ET Updated Sep 07, 2014

The Best Gift My Grandson Ever Gave Me

My early years in life were all about sports, and now 50 years later, I'm back in sports. No, it's not some big front office management position for a professional or college athletic team that some people might have anticipated years ago. It's coaching special needs kids and the handicapped on how to play baseball. Each Sunday in the spring and early summer, the Challenge League in the Boston area begins its baseball program for 140 children and young adults. The program is sponsored by the Teamsters Union and its President Sean O' Brien, who is an outstanding leader and a man who is defined by his concern for everyone.

I said that I started in sports so you may ask, "What was that all about and how come you didn't stick to it?" As a kid, I was a sports junkie. Baseball, football, basketball and running. Senior Park League, College, and even a brief run in professional basketball in Wilmington, Delaware. I coached baseball and basketball for a short time at Stonehill College. I even started a very successful Summer Fast Pitch Softball League and the first city Outdoor Basketball League in Boston.

But seeing how difficult it was to get things done, especially fixing up parks and playgrounds for kids and young adults, my friends convinced me to run for political office in South Boston. Well, from the Massachusetts State House to Boston City Hall, to the Vatican, my next 50 years kept me occupied with family and politics.

But when one of my 17 grandchildren was born with a rare undiagnosed neurological disease, my priorities changed. My passion was not politics, but helping my handicapped grandson Braeden, now 7-years-old. He has great, hardworking parents, and we help out as often as needed. Like all grandparents would say, all their grandchildren are the light of their lives, but a handicapped child is a pure delight. All the coaches and volunteers are tired at the end of the game, but it does so much for us; running the bases, picking the kids up when they fall, and having an ice cream with all the other kids, after the game. It is truly so much fun. These kids feel very special and there is no place on earth I would rather be than at Hollingsworth Park in Braintree each Sunday.

I am also involved in another challenge on behalf of Braeden and thousands of people like him: trying to get answers and medical solutions to help these special needs people lead as happy and productive a life as possible. That has been the not-so-rewarding part. I have seen so many wonderful and caring parents leave hospitals, clinics, and doctors offices without answers, solutions, or hope. We even spent a week at the National Institutes of Health in Maryland, but none of those medical experts had any answers, as to why Braeden has problems with his balance and often falls and has difficulty with his speech.

My journey to help Braeden even took me back to the Vatican and to the pope. I was invited to the First International World Conference on Adult Stem Cells at the Vatican. Top scientists and medical experts were invited to share their research about the hope and potential of adult stem cells to help promote wellness. I heard numerous promising comments from these determined medical experts. One such scientist was Christian Drapeau, from Stemtech International, who is an expert in this field. Not only did we attend the World Conference on Adult Stem Cells, but last month we met with the leading official on science and culture at the Vatican.

While there are still no definitive solutions and answers for people like Braeden, many of us are convinced that with faith and science, all things are possible. No, I never became the professional basketball player that I worked so hard to be, but coaching Braeden and handicapped and special needs kids like him, is the fulfillment of my athletic career. I started out in sports and I'm back at it.

Earlier on Huff/Post50:

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Carole King