Our focus is FUN!

A TJCL mid-summer game at Eichelberger Field at the University of Illinois in 2013.

TJCL focuses on children, ages 6-21, with varying degrees of physical or mental challenges and works to provide a safe environment for kids to enjoy themselves.  If you have or know of a child who you believe would benefit from the social, psychological, and physical benefits that a group activity provides, we’re here.

The league holds all games and practices at AMBUCS Park on East University Avenue in Urbana, Illinois. This is a handicap accessible park and ball diamond, equipped with lights for night games.

Volunteers/Buddies are present to help the players achieve their maximum potential and allow parents to be spectators/cheerleaders. Along with helping the player enjoy the game, the volunteers and buddies are responsible for protecting the players on the field.  (If your organization is interested in volunteering or sponsoring, please see our Contact Us page.)

Challenger playing equipment, uniforms and playing fields are the same as those used by other Little League teams. Players either hit from a tee or swing at a coach-pitched ball. They experience the joy of teamwork, the thrill of the crowd cheering them towards home plate and the pride that comes with a job well done.

The greatest reward for Challenger volunteers, buddies, parents and friends is to see players having fun and seeing the smiles on their faces.


History

For more than 60 years, the Champaign-Urbana Noon Kiwanis Club has sponsored Little League baseball in Champaign-Urbana. Thousands of local youngsters have taken part in the national pastime on Champaign-Urbana diamonds.

In a wheelchair since the age of six, Tom Jones lived his entire life making the most of his abilities. He earned two degrees from the University of Illinois, participated in basketball and track, became a successful local broadcaster, and advocated tirelessly for the disabled members of our community. Tom also loved baseball and it was his dream to provide the chance for physically and mentally challenged children to participate in a sport just as their brothers, sisters, and friends have done.

In 1998, that dream was realized as Tom along with Bob and Marilyn Abbuehl and Kirk Bedwell founded, with the sponsorship of the C-U Kiwanis Club and the partnership of the Champaign-Urbana Special Recreation Department, the Kiwanis Challenger League. The name was changed to the Kiwanis Tom Jones Challenger League following his passing in 2008.  His great legacy is the smiles that can be seen each spring and summer on the faces of our players, their families, and friends.

One of the oldest Challenger Leagues in the country and coming into its 20th year, the Tom Jones Challenger League has grown from 2 teams and 13 players to the present ten teams and upwards of 100 participants.  Tom Jones Challenger League has also provided guidance to start-up programs around the area and nation including the Challenger League in Danville.

A board comprised of Kiwanis club members, coaches, parents, and volunteers plans and oversees Challenger League activities. There are no paid positions within the Challenger League structure.

Tom Jones Challenger League is always looking for new avenues to improve the experiences that can be provided to our players.