When Dulles Little League Challenger Division Director Wendy Melcher first started volunteering with the Challenger Division in Loudoun County nearly two decades ago, she never dreamed of the success the new program would have in the rural suburbs of Washington, D.C. But through her dedication, the division has grown from two teams in 1997 to eight teams in 2016.
On June 14, the Little League Southeastern Region named Melcher the 2016 Challenger Division Volunteer of the Year.
“It’s really hard to put to words,” Melcher said. “All that matters is that these kids have a safe place to play and have fun.”
After searching around for a Challenger Division for her nephew Aaron to participate in in the late 1990s, Melcher found there was not a team in Loudoun. Her early determination meant the Little League Challenger Division was born in Loudoun in 1997 with two teams.
“Her boundless energy and deep affection for the Challenger athletes is evident in all she does. Wendy spends countless hours finding volunteer coaches, organizing teams, obtaining uniforms and scheduling games,” former Dulles Little League president Jim Klock said. “Through her leadership and dedication, Wendy ensures Loudoun County’s special needs athletes have a fun, safe place to play.”
Every Saturday afternoon, dozens of athletes, parents, friends, fans, volunteers and Melcher head to the field to play ball. Even 19 years after organizing the first local teams, Melcher still enjoys the excitement the game brings to these athletes.
“Wendy’s commitment to the community and the Challenger program is inspiring. For almost 20 years, Wendy has worked tirelessly to develop and grow the Challenger program,” Klock said. “Her selfless character and devotion to the community is an inspiration to all who know her. I am indeed fortunate to count her as a friend.”
A friend to Klock, Melcher is so much more to these Challenger Division athletes. She is the reason they get to play the game they love, making friends of their own along the way.
“What keeps me going is seeing these kids light up with their smiles when they get on the field and just knowing that they’re having fun,” Melcher said. “And of course, learning some baseball along the way.”