- Associated Press - Tuesday, August 26, 2014

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) - Determined to become part of a Little League baseball program in California where she grew up, Lisa Dorman refused to be ignored by boys who didn’t want a girl on their team.

What she was allowed to do was stand in the outfield to retrieve balls during batting practice but she wasn’t permitted to hit.

Rebuffed in constant pleas to play, she decided to fork over her lunch money to a member of the team to get her feet in the door of gender equality.

Lisa was only 7 years old at the time and hardly a feminist, but she was willing to sacrifice nutrition to get onto the field in some capacity.

“I gave him my 50 cents every day and went out to centerfield with my glove,” recalled the Huntingdon College professor who directs the school’s Ability Sport Network as well as other important jobs. “It went on through the summer that year.”

She found sustenance from fruit trees near the ball park or took something from home for energy as she fielded hits from the boys.

“I never felt inadequate in my space and that helped my confidence,” she said. “I think it’s also helped me in my career.”

From that disappointment so long ago, the 48-year-old college administrator and coach carved out a reputation known around the world.

Her specialty is addressing disabilities in sports. For a decade, she was a member of the Commission on Women and Sport of the International Paralympic Committee.

She was on the road a lot representing groups involved in recognizing achievements of disabled athletes. It gave her a new perspective on what it means to be denied.

Her trips around the world are over now, and she’s focusing her attention on helping those who lack the mobility of their able-bodied contemporaries.

A few days ago, she greeted several youngsters at the James W. Wilson Jr. Gymnasium on the Huntingdon campus to launch the upcoming Red Wings wheelchair basketball season.

A basketball court in Montgomery may not match international athletic venues she once visited, including China, but that doesn’t matter because she’s determined to help those who need it.

She’s done such a good job, in fact, that more than $400,000 in state grants have been appropriated to Huntingdon during the past two years to develop programs for disabled athletes.

Alabama may not rank high in many national categories, but it has the distinction of being the first state to address a mandate from the U.S. Office of Civil Rights to provide funding for after-school programs for children with disabilities. The money comes from a line-item budget appropriation.

Although she doesn’t consider herself disabled, she has been battling an illness many are unaware of, especially when they meet her for the first time.

She has multiple sclerosis, an inflammatory disease involving damage to nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord. There is no known cure.

“I’ve been blind three times, have had to use a cane when I need it and have been hospitalized, but I’m not giving up,” she said during an interview at the college. “I must admit though that I’m not at my best at times.”

Outwardly, she appears to be in tip-top shape, but looks can be deceiving. The physical battle she wages daily is a continuing struggle.

Her first experience with a disabled person was her grandfather who lost a leg in World War II during combat in Guam.

“I never looked at him as being disabled,” she said. “He was just my grandfather, and I always admired him.”

She and her husband live in Crenshaw County where they enjoy quiet country living after spending their days surrounded by students in Montgomery. Jay Dorman is Huntingdon’s treasurer and senior vice president for planning and administration at the college.

His wife is happy to put her academic duties aside to ride “Shadow,” a gentle quarter horse who has become almost a part of their family.

A California girl more familiar with earthquakes than cotton fields, she has become a proud transplanted Southerner thanks to two academic stints at Huntingdon.

“I grew up realizing that what happened during the civil rights movement happened in Montgomery and I wanted to see what it was all about,” she said.

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Information from: Montgomery Advertiser, http://www.montgomeryadvertiser.com

Copyright © 2016 The Washington Times, LLC.

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