Having a Ball

Building an organization from scratch is hard. Trying to do it in your preteen years without any resources can seem nearly impossible.

Not to Sam Eaker and Tori Stuart.

The two grew up going to sports camps together. Three years ago, when they were 12, they had an idea that would change the lives of many kids near their hometown of Fenton, Missouri. They wanted to create a volleyball camp just for children with special needs.

Sam's sister, Olivia, inspired the girls to start the camp. She has spina bifida, a condition that requires her to wear foot braces to stabilize her ankles.

Victory Volleyball was born the following summer, in 2014. A local television station picked up their story and spread the word throughout the St. Louis area. Now Sam and Tori have a partnership with TASK (Team Activities for Special Kids), and they recruit volunteer coaches. Admission is free thanks to donations and grants the girls have secured.

"I think camps like this are needed, because everybody should be treated equally," says Tori. "Most camps don't have the volunteers or the workers who are willing or able to help kids with special needs."

Sixteen campers attended the third annual two-day camp this past June, where 13 volunteers taught skills, such as how to dig and spike. "It's a lasting experience for all who are a part of it," says Sam. "[The campers] really got to experience what it's like to be part of a team. They just had fun."

Sam and Tori are excited about the future of Victory Volleyball and have some advice for other ambitious kids out there. "No matter what your abilities are, you should just go for whatever you want to do," says Tori. "I think they should follow their dreams just like we did, and they can accomplish anything they want to."

Photos: David E. Klutho

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