Is there anything better than going to a baseball game? Even if you're not a sports fan, there's something for everyone to love. From the action on the field to the hot dogs in the stands, there's just something magical about America's pastime. But what if all you wanted was to be a part of it, but a disability left you or your child feeling like you couldn't? In 1998, one youth baseball program decided to change all that, and the Miracle League was born.
The Miracle League got its start when youth baseball coach Eddie Bagwell in Atlanta, GA invited a child in a wheelchair to join his team. This idea brought other disabled children who were looking to play, and suddenly there were enough to form a league of their own. New and more inclusive rules were designed, and the league continued to expand.
It became clear that a playing field more conducive to disabled players was required. Community volunteers and corporations came together to design a field that would best suit the needs of their players. A custom-designed field was created, with a rubberized surface that worked great with mobility devices like wheelchairs and walkers, while also providing a cushion to prevent injury. The playing field was made perfectly level, to help players with visual impairments. Dugouts were built to be wheelchair-accessible. Easily accessible facilities were added, such as restrooms, concession areas, and even a picnic area in some locations.
What began as an effort to help local kids in need suddenly became a very big deal. Within just a few years, the number of players had nearly tripled. Local and national media attention began to pour in. Major humanitarian organizations began to recognize and award the Miracle League for their efforts. Celebrities began to lend their support, and the league was even visited by former President George W. Bush in 2014.
All of this attention served one incredible purpose: the Miracle League grew rapidly. What began as one league's attempt to embrace every local child has grown into an international program. Currently, there are 275 Miracle League organizations around the world. They're located across the United States and Puerto Rico, in Canada, and even as far as Australia! What began as a league of 120 kids has now become a program that improves the lives of over 200,000 children and young adults. If that's not a huge success, we don't know what is!
HDS Medallion has a special connection to the Miracle League. A branch of our family had the privilege of joining the Langham Creek YMCA Miracle League in the Houston area as "buddies" last Fall. Buddies are volunteers who partner with the kids playing or play other roles such as catcher. They had such a fantastic experience that we're going to dedicate our next blog post to their experience. Be sure to bookmark the HDS Medallion Designer Mobility Bags blog. You can also like our Facebook page and follow us on Twitter to make sure you don't miss it! It'll be filled with their experiences, and more information about the program at the Langham Creek YMCA. We also have a fun shot of one Miracle Leaguer who played ball with an HDS Medallion Designer CarryAll bag on her walker!
The Miracle League program has expanded beyond just providing a chance for special kids to play baseball or soccer. While not every child may be interested in these sports, there's one thing every child loves: the playground. The Miracle League has partnered with a company called Landscape Structures to provide custom-designed and inclusive playgrounds. These amazing courses offer all the fun and excitement of a standard playground, with slides, swings, and more. Each activity is designed so that every child can enjoy them, regardless of any disability they may have. They look amazing; check out some examples below!
To find out more about the Miracle League, click here to visit their website. Their introduction video does an amazing job of showing what it means to these kids to play ball. You may want to have tissues nearby! Click here for the contact information to find a league near you, or how to start one in your own area. And don't forget to check back on our blog for a description of just how special being a part of the Miracle League really is!