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Miracles All Around

FAMILY AFFAIR: Alan Gregory of Gregory Construction, Bo Dean, and Dr. Dan Johnson at the Miracle Field. Photo courtesy of Bo Dean.

This coming spring, with the help of hundreds of generous Wilmingtonians, Miracle Park will open its ball fields and playground to disabled sports enthusiasts. It will include the entire spectrum of our handicapped population, from children to seniors and our wounded warriors.

“New Hanover County has the largest population of disabled people in the entire state,” says Dan Johnson, chair for the nonprofit Accessible Coastal Carolina Events Sports and Services (ACCESS) of Wilmington and associate professor of recreation therapy at UNCW. Miracle Field and Kiwanis Miracle Playground will have a huge impact on the health and wellness. Community involvement will also run the gamut to ensure its success.

“College students will do internships, practicums, independent studies, and honor’s projects,” Johnson continues. “These students will be some of our strongest partners.”

Studies show disabled people have a 30-percent higher incidence of diabetes and heart disease. Miracle Park will be a place of activity, fitness and movement, thanks to handicapped accessible structures and adaptations of the field, playground, community rooms and bathrooms.

The field is 65 feet deeper than most Miracle Fields and encourages a wider variety of activities, including wheelchair football and softball, and power-wheelchair hockey.

Opposite of the park’s brick wall is a large wheelchair-accessible playground with a thick rubber surface and double-wide ramps to invite any child and grown-up to play.

The Miracle League would not be in the process of becoming a reality without Johnson’s vigilant promotion. “My inspiration was walking on a Miracle Field in Myrtle Beach,” he notes. “I imagined all the kids in Wilmington who would love to play in a park like that.”

“When Dan presented the idea to Wilmington’s City Parks and Rec six years ago, I was chair,” Bo Dean, newly appointed director of Wilmington’s Miracle Field at Olsen Park, states. “Dan was so convincing that the Olsen Park Committee approved his plan with no question whatsoever. Dan has fought for this with all that is in him, plus he’s attracting so many good people to the cause.”

Two of the good-people builders include Alan Gregory and Rocky Campagna. “Rocky teamed up with me and is taking care of the field while my company builds the structures,” Gregory says. “We are working side by side.”

What would normally be thousands of dollars worth of work comes free to the Wilmington Believes In Miracles Campaign. Wilmington’s Miracle Field will give many people the opportunity to be generous with both their money and time, too, as there will be a community build day allowing people to come out and help put the playground together.

Ongoing donations will be necessary for equipment and uniform repairs, salaries and maintenance.
Bricks, which will line the entire area, currently are being sold for $100 apiece and can be named to honor a business or an individual. Thirty outfield signs may be purchased in three-year contracts for $1000 per year. Brax Limited, owned by Pete Hexter, has contributed a substantial amount. Kiwanis, together with a match from the City of Wilmington, raised $150,000 (that’s a lot of pancake breakfasts— right?).

“I’m working with a purpose, which is really beautiful,” Dean says, “and I’m working with people who really inspire me.”

Communication among the disabled, their caregivers, and those implementing the amenities of Miracle Field have resulted in 17 handicapped parking spaces, a turn-around driveway for easy drop-off, community rooms, bathrooms and two family rooms with adult-sized changing tables for privacy. “The handicapped need more accessibility and encouragement to play,” Johnson says. “I actually saw a girl in a wheelchair who wanted to play baseball. They pushed her wheelchair through the dirt and pulled her IV fluids along beside her. She really wanted to play, but that wasn’t the right way to do it. Miracle Field will provide a better way.”

Miracle Field and Kiwanis Miracle Playground are planning an early spring opening. For more information and to contribute, go to the Miracle League website (www.miracleleague.com or http://miracleleaguewilm.org) or call Bo Dean at (910) 508-6788 or Dan Johnson at (910) 962-3659.

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