Bob Royer is giving children who may not have the opportunity to participate in sports a chance to do so. That’s more important than it seems, Royer says, because sports is an avenue for building a child’s self-confidence and esteem.

“Most of these kids have never played baseball or even had much interaction with other kids. This gives them a sense of confidence in themselves,” Royer says.

Royer organizes the Lake Highlands Exchange Club’s Summer Youth Baseball Program for low-income students at Northlake Elementary.

The program was the brainchild of former Exchange Club member Byron Fowler, who as community relations chairman for the club, noticed the need for more involvement from single-parent families. Royer accepted the coaching position and took over as the program’s organizer when Fowler moved to Kansas.

“Our sons were in college, and I had always enjoyed working with them in sports – this was a way for me to do it all over again,” Royer says.

“But more importantly this is a good idea for the community. It works real well to give kids an alternative to join a team instead of a gang.”

In three years, the program has grown to include four teams with more than 90 kids participating.

Wendy Barber, executive director of the White Rock/Lake Highlands YMCA, says the Y agreed to help sponsor the program because it epitomizes the organization’s mission of working with the whole community.

“It’s important for the Y to have people like Bob help us reach out to parts of the community that really need help,” Barber says.

“If the team hadn’t been formed, then many of these kids wouldn’t be able to play,” she says.

Most of the children who participate are from “apartment or single-parent families,” Barber says, and can’t afford the regular $45 fee to participate in the program.

If the children want to participate, they pay $5 and the Exchange Club picks up the cost of bats, balls and uniforms, Barber says. The Exchange Club will pay for any child who can’t afford the fee, Royer says.

The season runs from April to June, with practice on Sundays and games on Saturdays. Exchange Club members John Dooley, Lynn Austin, Jerry Ferguson and Mike McCurdy help Royer coach.

Royer’s wife Maureen, a teacher at Lake Highlands Junior High School, also is involved in community volunteer work.

“She bends over backwards for people who don’t have what other kids have,” he says.

Sports is a way for kids to use their time and energy to learn discipline and commitment, Royer says.

“They can learn that if you work hard and train, you can accomplish something,” he says.