On Thursday a dream 15 years in the making will become a reality.
The Miracle League of Coastal Alabama will break ground on its Summerdale ballpark tomorrow afternoon. It’s taken dozens of volunteers and three tries for the league to succeed in its quest to build a park dedicated to special needs players.
“It’s exciting. It’s very exciting,” said Bruce White Jr., president of The Miracle League of Coastal Alabama.
White was inspired 15 years ago when he was watching Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel. The show profiled another Miracle League program and the joy it brought to children who couldn’t play in city or school leagues due to their disabilities.
He turned to his wife with tears in his eyes.
“I need to build one of those on Alabama’s Gulf Coast,” he told her.
“Watching that, it hit me. I had been able to play ball my whole life and never thought about those kids sitting in a wheelchair that never got that opportunity,” he said. “This opened my eyes and made me realize how fortunate the rest of us are.”
There are roughly 240 Miracle League’s across the United States and Canada, serving more than 200,000 children and adults.
Soon after the Lions Club took on the task as a Legacy Project but Hurricane Ivan stopped the planning in its tracks. When the committee took up the mantel again in 2010, the Deepwater Horizon oil spill disaster unleashed havoc on the coast.
In 2015 the group re-organized and this time, all the stars aligned. The city of Summerdale donated 40 acres of land just off County Road 71, placing the park centrally in the county.
The committee made a wish list of items that included a baseball field with a rubberized surface that could be navigated by wheelchairs, a special needs playground and pavilion area and large, handicap accessible restrooms.
After years of fundraising and appearing at multiple community events each year the $2.5 million project has received several key donors including: $100,000 from Lions International, $100,000 from the Snook Foundation, $91,000 from Impact 100 Baldwin County, and $52,000 from Eric Hall Meyer Charitable Fund.
The project has also received $500,000 of in-kind service commitments. General contractor Ken Gates of Gates Construction in Foley is donating much of his services to build the park.
White said he is confident the community will come together to fund the remaining balance.
“It’s such a large project and it took so many years that a lot of people didn’t believe it was going to happen,” he said. “Now, it’s happening and it’s amazing.”
The park should take about 18 months to complete and then it will be ready for the athletes.
White said much of that time will be spent spreading the word to the special needs community that soon it will be time to play ball.
“A lot of people don’t know this is coming,” he said. “Just like any other league parents will run this league so we will need all those people to come out and be part of this.”
White said he hopes as many people as possible come to Thursday’s groundbreaking, and he hopes they are all as moved as he is when he looks across this field of dreams.
“We’re just ecstatic,” he said. “I get goosebumps every time I see it.”
To donate or for more information about Miracle League of Coastal Alabama visit http://www.miracleleaguecoastalalabama.com White can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.