TEWKSBURY -- Since the Tewksbury-based nonprofit Liam Nation started running sports leagues for children with learning and developmental disabilities last year, the group has seen interest only grow. And they want it to grow further.
"We want more applicants," Liam Nation Outreach Coordinator Ed Connerty said. "We want more people to know we're here."
The charity, which offers free baseball, basketball and soccer leagues for children in special-education classes, wants to reach students in more towns and expand its offering. Connerty said the group is looking to add in golf, kickball and adaptive-swimming programs.
To get the word out and raise the money they'll need, Liam Nation is partnering with Merrimack Valley Pavilion to host a community "day of fun and games" at the family fun center. The event runs from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at MVP, 2087 Main St.
"A lot of other towns think, 'Oh, it's just Tewksbury,' or a lot of people are under the impression that it's just Down syndrome or autism," said Erin Knyff, who founded Liam Nation in response to her son Liam's dual diagnosis of autism and Down syndrome. "But that's not what it's about."
The Liam Nation athletics programs is designed for children of all ability levels to be able to participate, and pairs each athlete up with an older student who volunteers to be their buddy.
"My son, who's 17, has been with the same little girl for five years," Connerty said. "We've obviously become great friends with the family. They didn't know each other five years ago, and that's just one of many stories.
The basketball program that recently wrapped its season had 49 athletes and around 43 volunteers.
The pairing is beneficial for both the Liam Nation athletes and the volunteers, Connerty said.
"We want to show the kids how to give back to the community and show them how to make buddies with people who are different than us," he said. "They're human beings who just want to kick the ball like we do."
Activities featured at Saturday's event will include an adaptive building program put on by Home Depot, cupcake decorating with a former student of Connerty's, face-painting by Wynn Middle School volunteers, a DJ, ice cream and a raffle.
Raffle prizes include Bruins and Red Sox tickets, an airplane tour over Gloucester and Plum Island and gift certificates "from every restaurant in town," Connerty said.
In the event of rain, vendors will move across the street to the Knights of Columbus hall, with umbrella-wielding volunteers and a detail officer walking guests over from MVP.
On Saturday, July 26, athletes from the Liam Nation baseball program will play on the field at LeLacheur Park before a Lowell Spinners game. Tickets are $6 and available by calling 978-805-5117.
Follow Katie Lannan on Twitter and Tout @katielannan.