Bicyclists will be coming into Winnsboro Thursday on a trek from Charlotte to Charleston, but this is not simply a joy ride.
The riders are led by author, salesman and cancer survivor, Channing Proctor who has developed an outreach program to fund the Charleston branch of the Miracle Baseball League.
The league provides an opportunity for persons with disabilities and special needs to play a modified form of baseball, a sport which Proctor is passionate.
He played at the Citadel but a rash of injuries derailed a promising career as a pitcher.
He quit the team his junior season but completed his business degree the following year in 1991.
In his 30s after learning that his favorite high school teacher had died of cancer, Proctor did some soul searching and decided life was about more than earning a high salary with his Atlanta sales job.
He decided to devote his talents to writing a book, spending more time with his family and helping bring baseball into children’s lives for the sheer joy of the game.
Proctor wrote Seasoned Rookie (www.seasonedrookie.com), a novel that is largely autobiographical, about 10 years ago.
The main character had baseball talent, was injured and returned to try to play pro baseball in his 30s.
In the process of writing the book, he started on the path to helping special needs individuals.
Currently Proctor is paying a Hollywood screenwriter to turn into a script to shop around to studios. If they do a movie, then all proceeds would be channeled into the Playtoday! foundation. He hopes to expand the program internationally if a movie deal goes through.
Life threw him a curve ball when his son was diagnosed with autism at age two. The young man will eventually play in the miracle baseball league his father helped found in Charleston years before he was born.
He and his wife settled into as routine a life as one can live with a special needs child in addition to two other children.
Channing continued to work his pharmaceutical sales job and to share his passion for baseball. Then almost exactly 10 years after his high school teacher died, Proctor was diagnosed with lymphoma.
He has been working hard to build his strength and endurance back from the medical treatment which has left his lungs right now at about 30 percent capacity compared to where they were a few years ago.
He also experiences a lingering pain in his chest when he runs or cycles hard, as a result of chemo and radiation.
“From the very beginning after learning I had cancer in January, my ultimate personal goal has been to cycle again in the PlayToday! Foundation’s Journey For Home (www.JourneyForHome.org) annual fund raising ride,” he said. “I know my speed will be down compared to last year, but I want to power through nonetheless as I truly believe in the PlayToday!’s mission which promotes ‘Play opportunities for people of all abilities with a core focus on those with special needs.’”
This year the ride will include six riders and one support individual. They will arrive in Winnsboro on Thursday between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. As part of that four day journey, they will have their first overnight layover in Winnsboro.
Rather than just ride into town, rest and move along, Proctor, a father of three including one son with autism, wanted to reach out to the local community. In so doing, he has set up a “play” visit in conjunction with the Fairfield County Disabilities and Special Needs Board.
Laura Collins, executive director with the Fairfield County Disabilities and Special Needs Board, said around 55 people with disabilities and special needs are scheduled to participate.
The event will take place in the gym of the First Church of the Nazarene at 6 p.m.
Physical activity, games, pizza and social interaction will be the main components.
Persons will special needs will play a modified version of “wiffle” ball/ tee ball from 6 til about 8 p.m.
This will be a new experience for many of the persons with disabilities and special needs in this area.
The riders will handle the funding and the planning for the event.
Collins said the clients are excited about the prospect of meeting new people. Fairfield County Disabilities and Special Needs serves around 230 people, some of whom have intellectual conditions such as autism who benefit from a structured environment.
While the bike ride is not raising money locally for Fairfield County Disabilities and Special Needs, she is thankful for the awareness the event will bring for the organization.
Fairfield County Disabilities and Special Needs is currently in the middle of a capital campaign to renovate its existing building and to pay for a new building that is being built on Washington Street.
“The event will not raise local funding but it gives the opportunity to engage with new people and do new things. Its is great that these folks are making a stop in Winnsboro and including us in their event,” she said.
A long range goal will be developing a day program and vocational type setting for persons who will be aging out of the school system in a few years and need that structured environment.
On Thursday, those concerns and goals will be set aside for a few hours as the clients engage in the serious business that is play therapy.
For more information about Fairfield County Disabilities and Special Needs or ways you can contribute to the organization, please contact 635-2154.
More information on Proctor’s charity can be found at www.journeyforhome.org.