Johnston Co. Miracle League helps kids with special needs - WFLA News Channel 8

Johnston Co. Miracle League helps kids with special needs

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Photo by Gaylen Daves & Skip Hawkins Photo by Gaylen Daves & Skip Hawkins
SMITHFIELD, N.C. -

Johnston County could soon get two new facilities in one for kids with special needs.

The Miracle League of Johnston County and The Partnership for Children of Johnston County have teamed up to build a special baseball field and park for children with special needs.

"I don't know of any other projects where the special needs park and the special needs baseball field are right side by side in the same park," said Monty McLamb, director of the Miracle League of Johnston County.

He saw the need after his baseball teams, which are a local part of the larger world-wide Miracle League organization, spent the past two and a half years on traditional fields.

"Those bases that are sticking up out there can be problems," he said.

Players like Timothy Allen, 14, also know that the fields weren't designed with the players' specific needs in mind.

"If it had rained recently, my wheelchair will get stuck in the wet dirt," he said.

A new field, in the planning stages, would address concerns such as those and literally level the playing field with features such as painted on bases and an asphalt base with a synthetic surface.

"Not really artificial turf, more of a rubberized turf. It makes the falls a little less painful. The balls don't bounce as wildly as they do on a baseball field," McLamb said.

While McLamb was looking into those possibilities, the Partnership for Children of Johnston County, was planning a park with features for special needs kids' senses and wheelchair accessible slides. Now, with their combined visions, it will be a one-stop place where kids of all abilities can play.

"Sometimes children with special needs don't have a place to go to do their own thing and this is a place that they can come out and be a part of something that is just for them," said Stanley Monk, whose son, Myles, 13, plays on a Miracle League team.

The field and park will be for their entire families, McLamb said.

"It has a lot of play spaces designed specifically for special needs kids, but we didn't want it to be just special needs kids. This will be a park where you can bring the entire family at. For special needs kids, their siblings. That was the problem they were having before. Parents had to choose – if you had a special needs child and a non-special needs child, you had to choose which park you went to."

The complex will sit on about four acres at the existing Smithfield Aquatic Center and Community Park, which the county leased to the effort for $1 a year.

It will cost about $1.5 million dollars. The hope is to raise all of the money by the end of this year and begin the construction in the spring of 2014. The field will take about two months to build, so McLamb hopes to be able to play spring games on it.

"When I started it, I didn't realize just how important it was. As I got into, I got more into the numbers of it. There are over 3,000 kids just in Johnston County Schools alone that qualify special needs. If we only get 10 percent of that population, that's 300 kids that we could impact," he said.

For more information on the project and how to help, click here.

 

Justin Quesinberry

Justin is a reporter for WNCN and a North Carolina native. He has spent the better part of the last decade covering the news in central North Carolina.  More>>

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