Jack & Cora PetersonShare
Jack and Cora Peterson
Hometown: Rancho Cucamonga
"We are Jack and Cora Peterson, and we want the state to support kids with special needs."
At age four, Jack and Cora Peterson’s only son, John, was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. It was the late ‘80s and little was known about Autism—even less about what the future would hold for children like John.
For years, the Petersons navigated John’s confusing world of impaired social interaction, developmental delays and isolation. All the while, the first-time parents regretted that their son would not be able to take part in mainstream activities such as organized sports.
“If we let John sit at home and do nothing, he would just go into his own world,” remembers Cora. “So when he was six years old, we enrolled him in the Challenger Little League in Montclair that is open to children of all disabilities.”
The Challenger Little League filled a void in the lives of John and dozens of other children. However, the League is only open to minors. When John and his teammates turned 18, they could no longer play baseball. “In anticipation of this, we established the Challengers Bowling League when John was 17,” said Cora. “This league now includes more than 75 children, teens and adults with disabilities.” The Challengers Bowling League provides the group with a social and athletic outlet many have never experienced.
The Petersons have been able to sustain the Challengers Bowling League through small fundraisers and donations. But they have experienced firsthand that other programs serving special needs individuals have not been so fortunate.
“California has made tremendous progress in addressing the needs of children with special needs,” said Cora. “However, budget cuts are impacting special education and programs necessary for these individuals to experience consistent social interaction with their peers.”
Cora adds that community volunteers are crucial to help fill the budget gap and provide those with special needs the social, emotional and developmental outlets many so desperately need.