After more than a year of planning and fundraising, the broke ground today on its new baseball field at the in Palmer Township.
The field is specially designed to help children and adults with disabilities play baseball.
The league hopes to have the field and its buildings finished by late summer or early fall 2012, said Richard Agretto, president of the organization.
A teacher and director of special education in the Bethlehem Area School District for 35 years, Agretto said it has been a dream of his to create a facility like this one.
“Today is a huge day in making that difference,” Agretto said. “We are making sure that that opportunity is happening for [children with disabilities]. It is as important to them as it is for any able child.”
The field is for people like 14-year-old Brianna McGovern of Emmaus.
Brianna was born with only one arm, and she is also wheelchair bound. But she can knock the heck out of a baseball.
“Playing baseball makes us feel victorious,” she said.
Kathy McGovern, Brianna’s mother, has four adopted special needs children.
Her 8-year-old son, Eric, was born without a spinal column and his legs had to be amputated, McGovern said, but his spirit is strong. When Eric was handed the microphone he enthusiastically said, “Play ball.”
McGovern said that there is a wheelchair sports arena in Philadelphia, but they can’t get there very often.
“He needs a special field. You can’t run these little wheelchairs on grass,” she said. “We need something in our own back yard.”
Miracle League fields have rubberized surfaces to help prevent injuries and eliminate any barriers to wheelchair-bound, equipment-assisted or visually impaired players.
If looking at the Chrin Community Center from Route 22, the field site is located in the northeast corner. It will include a drop-off circle, concession stand and restrooms, pavilion, bleachers and a dugout.
in Easton donated its services to doing the site engineering and field design, according to the Miracle League's web site.
Dave Colver, president of the , said the cost of land would have been the most expensive part of the venture. By using the community center site, the land, parking, infrastructure and water and sewer facilities are already provided.
So far, the Miracle League has received more than $200,000 in donations. Two of those sponsors are the Palmer Township Athletic Association, which provided $50,000, while the Easton Rotary Service Foundation donated $100,000.
The total cost to construct the field and supporting buildings is about $600,000. There are 38 municipalities within the coverage area of this facility.
“If [each municipality] puts $1,000 in their budget [annually], this group will never have to fund-raise,” Colver said.
And the fundraising isn't over. Anyone wishing to make a donation can contact Dan McKinney, director of the Chrin Community Center and Miracle League board member, at 610-252-2098 or email@example.com.