By Sue Moore
A field of dreams is coming to Schoolcraft. It’s to be called the Miracle League of Southwest Michigan. devoted to a baseball field for children with disabilities.
To Dave Olson of Vicksburg, it’s simply the Miracle Field. He and many others have become the driving force behind planning the layout and recruiting children who would benefit from having a place of their own to play baseball.
They have submitted an application to the IRS for 501c3 status and should know soon if their dream qualifies as a nonprofit. The group Is on Facebook as Southwest Michigan Miracle League.
Olson witnessed such a field in Grand Rapids last summer and vowed to bring a similar structure to the South Kalamazoo County area. With the help of Bill Deming, former parks and recreation director in Portage, they found the perfect place to locate such a field; at the Dome in Schoolcraft, owned by Josh and Amber Baird and Jud Hoff.
A more dedicated group of people could hardly be found anywhere, Olson says. He personally helped to recruit Deming, Jud Hoff and Josh Baird. Others quickly said yes when they heard his dream. “We don’t want to turn away any child that is interested. The kids in the Grand Rapids area say they live for the days they get to come and play baseball. There are so many disabled kids out there – it’s a whole demographic of people not being served. I have an army of people who want to help with this project,” Olson claimed. He is the owner of The Postman on Sprinkle Road.
Olson is passionate about the opportunities the Miracle Field will provide for people with disabilities. He believes it will offer life-changing activities including camaraderie and a sense of teamwork for kids who don’t get that in the real world. One of the unique aspects will involve a buddy system of volunteers that will assist the players, Olson said.
Jud Hoff, president of the new board of directors, aims to bring the field to reality. Deming has been researching the requirements for a field that will work for kids with disabilities. It will be asphalt with a rubber matting over the top and maybe Astro turf shaved down so the surface area will accommodate wheelchairs and walkers so they won’t roll over. It will need dugouts that wheel chairs can access along with a pitching machine and other amenities, Deming said.
Other board members include Lisa Anspaugh, treasurer and an accountant who lives in Schoolcraft and Josh Will, vice president and wealth management officer with Southern Michigan Bank & Trust, in charge of fundraising and Heather Meyer, public relations and marketing with her business of HMM Consulting. Although this small group has been working together on planning for six months, it has just added two new board members, Dr. Luchara Wallace from Western Michigan University’s special education department who specializes in learning disabilities, and Wade Rutkoskie of Schoolcraft, who will lead construction efforts and is senior business manager at Tekna Corp.
The board members have formed a Youth Corps to support the organization. It consists of Baird’s son, Jacob, at Vicksburg, and Hoff’s son, Bryce, at Portage Central, and the friends they have recruited.