On October 22, 2011, ULI members stepped up to the plate and volunteered with the Miracle League of Alexandria to help individuals with special needs play ball. The Miracle League works with the City of Alexandria to provide safe opportunities to a population that needs an extra hand to enjoy outdoor recreational activities in a fun and friendly environment.
In 2011, its inaugural year, the Miracle League held twelve baseball games at the Lee Center ball field, near the southwest quadrant of Old Town. Every player had an opportunity to bat and field for two innings. No score was kept and each hit resulted in a home run for the player. To help safely hit the ball, field, and run the bases, each participant was paired with a “buddy.” As buddies, ULI members found that each participant differed in their capabilities and some required more help than others. Several participants were in wheelchairs and needed to be pushed from base to base, while others had the physical strength to hit the ball hard, but needed encouragement to run to home plate. Regardless of the participants’ capabilities, everyone in attendance felt the excitement of a very special game. ULI members witnessed the extraordinary impact that inclusionary recreation programs can have on individuals that are often left out of sports and leisure activity.
Prior to the game, Ron Kagawa, Chief of Park Planning, Design, and Capital Development for the Alexandria Department of Recreation, Parks, and Cultural Activities, spoke to ULI members about the efforts underway to install a rubberized surface baseball diamond at the Lee Center in 2012. As the site plan showed, the future field will be completely ADA accessible and the rubber playing surface will be safer and easier to use for players, particularly those in wheelchairs or with walkers. The site amenities will include extra-long dugouts to accommodate wheelchairs, an entry plaza with tables and chairs, and sensory features, such as textured walls and fragrant plantings, to stimulate children with autism. When the field is not in use by the Miracle League, T-ball and other youth sports activities will be programmed on the site.
In 2010, Alexandria’s City Council approved partial funding for construction of the Miracle Field. A dedicated group of residents formed a fundraising arm of the Miracle League of Alexandria to raise the remainder of the funds needed to construct the site. Donors will be recognized on a “wall of fame” near the field. The Miracle League aims to have all of the funds raised by Spring 2012 and a field ready in time for the Fall Miracle League season. The ULI Young Leaders Community Service Committee looks forward to volunteering again next fall and helping their “buddies” play ball on their own special field.
To find out more about the Miracle League of Alexandria, visit http://miracleleagueofalexandria.com or either of the Miracle League of Alexandria Co-Chairs: Bill Rivers, firstname.lastname@example.org or Donnie Simpson, DSimpson@simpsondev.com