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At Bat in our Community

Phillies Harmony Fan Club

The Phanatic and former Phillie Kevin Jordan were a big hit at the annual ARC/PDDC picnic in June.

The Phillies Harmony Fan Club is a special program created by the Phillies that offers baseball and other sports as recreational outlets for mentally and physically disabled children and adults. Each year, the program provides a safe and welcoming environment for thousands of participants and their families who would not otherwise have an opportunity to learn the game of baseball while connecting with their community.

"There are currently 2500-3000 clients and families benefiting from our mission," said Mike Iannella, Phillies Harmony Fan Club primary instructor.

Through organized leisure activities, partakers exercise, learn the fundamentals of baseball and build a greater sense of self-esteem while meeting their community. In turn, these club days increase community awareness and acceptance of those with special needs. The Phillies Harmony Fan club helps make a connection for all involved. A certified adapted physical education teacher and trainer, Iannella plans the schedule of activities and coordinates special events each year.

"This is the most satisfying thing professionally that I do, especially when I see the smiles on their faces," Iannella said. "The events are fun, but most important is the program."

Learning to play the game of baseball and meet current and former Phillies players is a unique part of the Harmony Fan Club. The Phillie Phanatic, pitcher Geoff Geary and former Phillies Milt Thompson, Kevin Jordan and Dickie Noles have each played in ballgames with kids and adults. Free tickets to Phillies games, merchandise including caps, bobbleheads, t-shirts and photo cards donated by the Phillies have made the experience more memorable. "The families are very appreciative of all the quality programs we present and events the Phillies project provides for them," said Ianella.

"Mike has done an outstanding job running the Phillies Harmony Fan Club, said Phillies Director of Community Relations, Gene Dias. "He has years of experience working with children and adults with special needs and has an unbelievable amount of compassion and enthusiasm for the program."

The Phillies partner with several organizations to provide events including the Easter Seals All-Camp Sports Day in Belmont Park, the COMHAR Block at the COMHAR administrative parking lot and the Devereux Festival Day at the Whitlock Center in Berwyn. Each year, COMHAR and families celebrate the holiday season together at Romano's Restaurant in Northeast Philadelphia. During the COMHAR Holiday Party, participants enjoy dinner, gifts, including Phillies merchandise and visits from Santa, players and the Phanatic.

Since its creation in 2002, a primary goal of the Phillies Harmony Fan Club is to train staff, family members and volunteers to replicate the program throughout surrounding counties. In doing so, the Phillies have had a special relationship with several organizations including COMHAR, Easter Seals of Southeastern Pennsylvania, Variety-The Children's Charity, Devereux and Special People in the Northeast, Inc. (SPIN).

"I personally, am overwhelmed by the Phillies' support and recognition of the value of an adaptive leisure education program for individuals having disabilities, their families, and for the agencies and people who are committed to providing services for these individuals," said Ianella.

While the Phillies recognize there still exists a great need for additional adult programs of its kind in the community, the effort to connect continues, one game at time, in perfect harmony.