ProMedica partnership with Miracle League is big hitWritten by John P. McCartney | | firstname.lastname@example.org
For Schyler Young, the 13-year-old daughter of Scott and Stacey Young, life is a wonderful adventure.
Schyler is a huge Mud Hens fan, and although she is developmentally and cognitively delayed with vision and hearing problems, nothing stands in the way of her rooting for the Hens.
“She can sit right up in front of the TV, with her face to the screen, and she can listen to the whole game,” her father said. “It makes her happy. It’s a bright light in her life.”
And thanks to the Miracle League of Northwest Ohio, Schyler also enjoys playing baseball. Schyler is one of 70-plus special needs children who play an eight-week season at a baseball field about 500 yards behind Northwood Fire Department Station No. 1 in Northwood.
Take Me Out to the Ball Park
Schyler’s baseball season was celebrated a few weeks ago when, on April 26, ProMedica hosted its fourth annual sports night, “Take Me Out to the Ball Park.”
At the evening fundraiser attended by an estimated 270 people, former Detroit Tigers left fielder Willie Horton spoke about his life and the role baseball played in his development.
“He talked about our organization a little bit and how worthwhile a project he thought it was,” said Jeff Barton, Miracle League of Northwest Ohio president. “He knows the role baseball played in his life. He knows the type of development sports plays in a child’s life.”
Healthy lifelong development is important to ProMedica and the Miracle League organizations, said Janet Krzyminski, executive director of the Wildwood Orthopedic and Spine Hospital Foundation.
One of ProMedica’s goals with the fundraiser was to “find a partner charity that met our mission, which is to promote health and well-being,” Krzyminski said. “[Our support of the Miracle League of Northwest Ohio] is not a one-time thing. We have made a commitment to work with the children who are served by the Miracle League.
“Throughout the year, our employees will volunteer their time. This partnership helps our philanthropic mission, which is to promote volunteerism among our employees.”
The Miracle League
The Miracle League of Northwest Ohio was established in 2005, when Barton was moved by the birth of his and his wife Lisa’s first child, Vincent, 6.
At that time, Barton was working at a home for adults with mental retardation, where he said he witnessed the frustration of the parents of special needs adults who didn’t have many extracurricular activities in which they could participate.
“I knew many of them growing up were never a part of a team, never played sports because they never had that opportunity,” Barton said. “So when my son was born, a healthy, typical kid, I started to think, ‘What if he was special needs?’ I would want him to have something to participate in, and one of those things I thought I’d want him to be involved in is baseball. It’s something I grew up with.
“When you have a special needs child, it’s almost like having a full-time job in itself, just in the care of that child. I didn’t think that just because I didn’t have a special needs child should prevent me from moving forward with this idea.
Barton convinced his wife and some of their friends to join him in the project.
“I had the time to pursue something like this,” Barton said. “Many of my friends who have special needs children say they would have done this a long time ago if they just had the time to devote to it.
“And in many cases, they simply don’t. My wife and I were blessed with two healthy boys, and so we decided to do something for kids that want to play baseball that may not have the opportunity to do so.”
The children in the program come from the Greater Toledo area, Oak Harbor, Findlay, Tiffin and Southeast Michigan. The special needs children in the program have both physical and cognitive disabilities.
“Special needs can be a broad term,” Barton said. “What I tell people is, ‘Hey, if they’re, for whatever reason, not being included in typical leagues in their hometowns, they can come to the Miracle League and play. We don’t exclude anybody.”
Participation in the baseball league is not limited to any one group of people. Barton’s children also play in the Miracle League.
“I think it’s important for them to grow up around people that are different or are perceived to be different,” Barton said. “It’s good for them. They have a blast doing it anyway, so it’s a league for everybody. Inclusion is a big message with our league.”
Scott Young said he appreciates the volunteers who work with his daughter, especially baseball players from high schools like St. John’s Jesuit who volunteer their time and talents.
Other volunteers involve themselves in fundraisers like the 5K run/walk, which generates about $4,000 a year, and the golf outing, scheduled for June 8, which raises around $10,000 a year.
Although fundraising is an important activity of the Miracle League, the organization has been able to operate on a budget of just under $10,000 a year.
Barton said it’s most important to focus on the special needs children.
“It’s just about being a kid. A lot of kids grow up wanting to play sports, wanting to be included, wanting to be seen for their abilities. And that’s what this league allows them to do,” he said. “Rather than for these kids to be seen for their disabilities or their special needs, this league is a chance for them to come out and show people what they can do, and for a lot of them, it’s a thrill.
“What I tell people is, ‘Just remember what it’s like when you were a kid growing up playing in sports leagues. Think how different you’d be today if you didn’t have those opportunities.’
“I talk to the friends I grew up with, and I say, ‘You remember when we played baseball or football. They cherish those moments. And that’s what we’re trying to provide to these kids — just some memories of something they did in their childhood that they can look back on fondly.”
Barton is adamant that the Miracle League’s success is directly tied to ProMedica’s ongoing support.
“ProMedica has been a great supporter of the Miracle League. I approached them in 2007. When we initially met with them, I had no money. I had no major sponsors,” Barton said. “I was just some guy trying to get this field built. But I knew I had to get some major supporters involved, and ProMedica took a risk with us.
“When we got ProMedica’s support, things just seemed to fall into place. When they came on board with us, it gave us the legitimacy that we needed. They’ve been so great to work with, and we’re lucky to have them.”
ProMedica officials reported that the “Take Me Out to the Ball Park” event raised about $90,000 through sponsorships, ticket purchases, silent and live auction proceeds and vendor community partnerships. The foundation’s board of directors will meet in late May to decide how much money ProMedica will donate to the Miracle League.