Special Needs Crowd
Buddy Program
Special Needs Division @ the Garden
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With the decline in Covid-19 cases, we are doing our best to return to “normal”. For the time being, Masks are optional.

Players with different developmental, social and emotional abilities and their families will find a warm, welcoming community in our coed Champions Program, now gearing up for its 23rd season.

Champions manager Ken McGrory has created a dynamic program—from the first teaching clinics to the end-of-season celebration—carefully designed to adapt to the needs of each participant. The program has succeeded in strengthening participants’ confidence, attention and social skills while also developing their athletic abilities.


In 2019-20 (pre-Covid-19), the Champions program consisted of approximately 150 participants from all five boroughs who played within the following sub-groups: Rising Stars, ages 5 to 10; Rising Juniors, ages 11 to 15, Juniors, ages 15 – 19 and three groups of Seniors, ages 18+ (no age limit). We anticipate a similar structure this season. Group assignments are determined by various factors—size, ability, social concerns—and are mutually agreed upon by coaches and parents.

Dates and Location

The Special Needs program will meet Saturdays starting December 3, 2022 and continuing until March 25, 2023 except for December 24 and 31. The location is PS 163 on West 97th Street between Columbus and Amsterdam Avenues.

Special features

  • All-volunteer program
  • Everyone welcome: all ages, all skill levels
  • Individual attention
  • Buddy system: older players, siblings and high school and adult volunteers partner with all of the Champions in order to boost their understanding of basketball basics and to help them develop athletic skills, learn about sportsmanship and improve their communication skills both on and off the court.

Registration Fees

  • Full Fee: $175. Tax-deductible contributions above this amount provide scholarship assistance and are very much appreciated.
  • Partial scholarship: Reduced fee of $75.
  • Full scholarship: Available to players who attend elementary or middle public schools and to Special Needs Champions Division. Before registering your child, you must submit the full scholarship request form. You will subsequently be sent instructions regarding registration and payment of $10 administrative fee.

Special Needs/Champions Division Registration

Questions or concerns? 

Please use our Champions Division Contact Form or contact Division Manager Ken McGrory at 917-592-9665.


Our son, Alexander, has been a participant in the Safe Haven basketball program for about 15 years. During that time he has grown up quite a bit and Safe Haven, Coach Ken and his volunteers have played a role in that maturing. He has made friends there, learned an athletic skill and started to understand the fundamentals of teamwork. Each individual plays to his/her capabilities, which is always a mixed bag. An effort is made to group the players according to ability so that learning is accompanied by a good time. If you’re not involved in this your child is missing out.
—George and Judy Patsalos

My grandson, Tommy Pacheco Jr., has been playing basketball with Safe Haven for at least six years. In addition to acquiring significant skills in the sport, he has learned sportsmanship, teamwork, and what commitment to a the program means. Given his particular developmental issues, your program was especially helpful in supporting self esteem and socialization.Tommy has also developed life long friendships that he treasures. For myself personally, I am very grateful for the opportunity to spend time with other parents, learn about other resources from them, and be supported. As part of a cheering squad, I have so much fun cheering on every single player for their accomplishments (and effort!). I am also thankful for the scholarship assistance without which Tommy would not be able to participate.
—Maureen Benej