Toni Fachman spent many summers tagging along to watch her older sister, Mindi, play softball.
But Toni, who was born with spina bifida, never had the chance to play the game herself until four years ago when she discovered the Alegent Health Junior Wheelchair Sports and Recreation Camp.
Toni, a senior-to-be at Logan View High School, recently completed her fourth year at the camp and also returned earlier this week from the National Wheelchair Softball Tournament in Chicago, where her Junior Nebraska Barons team won the championship.
Toni said she first learned about the Alegent camp - which is held in Council Bluffs, Iowa, and Omaha - from Logan View special education teacher Robin Boll. The camp is open to children ages 5 and older.
"I wish I would have been able to learn about it sooner," Toni said.
The weeklong camp allows those who attend to participate in such things as martial arts, basketball and tennis.
Rugby also is offered.
"That's pretty intense," Toni said.
The camp also provides campers the chance to interact with other young people who are in similar situations.
"The biggest thing she's gotten is the opportunity to meet with other kids who face the same challenges as she does," Toni's mother, Allison Fachman, said. "They're all the same when they go to camp."
Toni will be able to attend the camp next summer, then plans to return as a volunteer in future years to have the opportunity to give back to the program.
Toni joined the Junior Nebraska Barons - a co-ed team based in Omaha - four years ago and went to her first national tournament.
The team has won the national title in the junior division each of the last three years.
While winning national championships are enjoyable, Toni said that's not the main reason she plays softball.
"Because I'm just doing it for my love of the game, just the experience of being able to play is amazing," she said. "If I didn't like it, I wouldn't be playing."
Toni, the oldest player on the team, was a pitcher this year, but has also played outfield in the past.
Allison Fachman and her husband, Fred, accompanied Toni to Chicago for the tournament. Allison said the experience has been good for the couple's daughter.
"Toni's always been a very social and outgoing girl, but I think it does help for her to know that she can do this and even emphasize that she can do whatever she wants to do," she said.
Toni said she would encourage young people in her situation to seek out opportunities like the Alegent camp and to do so at a young age.
"Don't wait," she said. "I wish I would have had it when I was 5 because I enjoy it so much."
Her mother agreed.
"I'm just glad that she's had the opportunity to do this and to be able to spread the word that anybody in this situation could know about the opportunities that are out there," Allison Fachman said.