Fairview Heights, IL - With receipt of a donation of $5000 from the CSX Railroad office in St. Louis, plans for completion of the Miracle League ball field at Moody Park continues to move ahead. The project is a culmination of nearly a decade of fund-raising and assessing the necessary logistics.
Miracle League of Fairview Heights President Brenda Wagner was out on the ball field Friday afternoon, Jan. 24, with temperatures earlier that day in the single digits so she could meet with Lex White from CSX for a ceremonial donation of the funds for the scoreboard.
This is not going to be a conventional grass and dirt ball diamond but instead, it would be set up for the benefit of special needs individuals including those who are unable to ambulate without the aid of a wheel chair, walker or some other assistive device. Wagner said the field will also be made available to disabled American veterans.
The local Miracle League field is located in the northwest part of Moody Park. Construction of the field began in mid-September and has progressed well despite harsh winter weather the past couple of months because things were far enough along with it that the snow, ice and extreme cold provided little in the way of detriment to the effort. Good weather this past autumn helped facilitate a smooth beginning and pushed forward the early stages of the construction.
While offering an array of programs like bowling, kickball and basketball for special needs children throughout the year, the long-range primary goal, for much of the past 10 years, of the Miracle League has been to bring about the construction of a ball field like this at Moody Park in Fairview Heights.
ATG Sports of Andover, Kansas is the contractor overseeing the project, using local union laborers and firms like Level-It Excavating of Belleville to do things like moving dirt and ground around or backfilling on the field.
A special, smooth and soft surface, made of rubber-like materials, that would allow children and adults with certain disabilities to move around more easily and freely, is being used on the Miracle League field plus the bases are flush-mounted at ground level so that they do not present an obstruction that can be tripped over, like the conventional canvass bases used on other fields which set up from the ground a few inches.
It is difficult not to understand how close this field is finally becoming to reality when you see the fencing around it and, as was the case on the day of the CSX donation presentation picture even with a dusting of snowing covering the ground, the white-striped foul lines, batters' boxes and bases already in place.
White, representing the CSX rail system that covers a large area of the United States and Canada, was particularly dedicated to having that company become a part of the vast network of supporters for the Miracle League field because he is the parent of a special needs child who will be having fun there like so many others.
A resident of O'Fallon, White said he was present at a meeting of one of two Rotary Clubs when Wagner made a presentation about the field, thusly providing him with the incentive he needed to begin the process for the procurement of the contribution from CSX.
Funding for the Miracle League effort has come from the City of Fairview Heights which contributed $100,000, spread out over three years, in money from its hotel-motel revenue fund toward the project and St. Louis Cardinals Manager Mike Matheny who contributed $50,000 on two different occasions from his Catch 22 Foundation.
Another major source of support has come from the Fairview Heights Rotary Club which is hosting its 39th annual Camelot Dinner Auction and Wines of the Round Table on Saturday, March 22.
This event has also generated significant amounts of funding for many charitable programs with a high prioritization for the Miracle League ball field and the other Miracle League sports programs.
"Miracle League is more than a field of dreams," Wagner said. "It is more than Brenda Wagner. It is made up of many people whose lives have been touched by our special needs community. It is alive and living and it is something you can be part of. This is all what makes the 'Miracle' in Miracle League."
*Originally published on the Herald Publications website.