New "Miracle League" baseball field built for children with disabilities
CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Registration is open for the newest sports team in Charlotte... a baseball team full of heart aimed at giving children with disabilities a chance to play ball.
Charlotte's "Miracle League" is sponsored by the YMCA of Greater Charlotte. A new field is still under construction behind the University City YMCA off W.T. Harris Boulevard. Ground broke in June. It will eventually be a custom-designed baseball complex with Charlotte's first completely wheelchair accessible surface.
"It's an answered prayer," says Karen Proctor, the mother to a 13-year old boy with autism. "Just because they have a disability doesn't mean they don't have social skills, they don't have feelings, they don't want to do things other children want to do."
Karen's son, Christopher, is excited as well. When we asked him about it, he whistled and smiled big in response.
Karen laughed. "He knows baseball," she said. "But he's never been able to play because it's hard for him to do group activities with other kids who don't understand his disability. This will give him a group of friends. He'll know he's coming here and can look forward to 'X, Y and Z' instead of Mommy just saying, 'No, no, no...'."
Holly Lane agrees. Her 12-year old, Nathan Bescher, has Duchenne's Muscular Dystrophy. That's a neurological disease. Nathan's muscle doesn't have a protein to help it rebuild so as he gets older, the muscle gets weaker. He is now confined to an electric chair.
"We've gotten really involved with the YMCA," Holly said. "He takes swim lessons. He's been in after-school programs. It's just... I've really seen him blossom since we moved to Charlotte two years ago. His personality is exploding. Now I think he's ready to do something like the Miracle League. We just keep doing more and more and I see he's capable of more and more."
There are currently "Miracle Leagues" in Cary, High Point, Wilmington, Smithfield and Bunn. This will be the first one in this part of the western part of North Carolina. Expectations are children from over an hour away will be signing up to play.
- Any child over the age of five can register.
- Cost is $35. That covers a uniform shirt and hat.
- Teams will have up to 15 players for games that last approximately one hour.
- Each team and each player wins every game.
- Fall and spring seasons will be eight weeks each.
- The first game is set for September 8th, 2012.
Registration opened Monday, July 23rd. Go to www.YMCAMiracleLeague.org to register a child or sign up to volunteer.
Volunteerism is a whole other facet to this new field. The YMCA needs lots of volunteers to do everything from singing the National Anthem at games... to getting matched up with a player as a "volunteer buddy"... to working the concession stand. The YMCA says volunteer opportunities are very family friendly. It's hoping for kids of all ages to show up and cheer on the players themselves.
"One of the coolest parts about this league is the 'volunteer buddy' part," said Molly Thompson, who's with the YMCA. "Youth groups, corporate groups looking for a unique way to team build, high school clubs... they can all sign up to be matched up with an individual player. We give each player a 'buddy' who is in essence like a mentor. I can't wait for it all to kick off."
Volunteers must be at least 16 and pass a background check. Not old enough to volunteer? Consider volunteering as a family. Kids over the age of 10 may volunteer alongside an adult.
Again, go to www.YMCAMiracleLeague.org for more information.
WBTV Anchor Molly Grantham is emceeing a home plate dedication ceremony Tuesday, July 24th at noon. She'll also be out helping with the opening game on September 8th.
Click the attached video to see her special report which first aired Monday, July 23rd.