A chance to play

A chance to play
Field gives kids a shot they might not get
By Brad Kadrich • OBSERVER STAFF WRITER • May 13, 2010

Volunteers associated with The Miracle League are dedicated to one, very simple proposition: “Every child deserves a chance to play baseball.”

It's a vision Debra Madonna and Bob Bilkie share, as co-chairs of Miracle League of Plymouth, a group that has forged an agreement to build a baseball field out back of Central Middle School in downtown Plymouth with the idea of making that vision a reality for special-needs children in the community.

“It gives kids a chance to play baseball who wouldn't have that chance otherwise,” said Madonna, director of the Plymouth Community Arts Council and co-chair (along with Bilkie) of Miracle League of Plymouth, which provides the opportunity to children with special physical and emotional needs. “There are other therapeutic activities, but this one is most visible.”

The first Miracle League field opened in Conyers, Ga., in April 2000. By 2002, fields opened in South Carolina, Alabama, West Virginia, Chicago, and California. There are currently 225-plus Miracle League organizations across the country which serve more than 100,000 children and young adults. The Miracle League has an aggressive plan to help local communities build Miracle League complexes around the globe. One such complex will be built in Plymouth; Madonna said the group hopes to break ground in April 2011.

Miracle League of Plymouth has worked with the Plymouth-Canton Community Schools officials, who agreed to lease district-owned property behind Central Middle School. The field will be built back there, with parking available off of Theodore and at the Plymouth Cultural Center, with pathways laid for families to get back and forth. Getting involved with it seemed an easy call for those closest to it. “I am involved because of my heartfelt desire to serve the meekest in our society combined with my equal desire to share my love for the game of baseball,” Bilkie said. “This is my own ‘double-play combo!'”

Madonna, also a member of Plymouth Rotary A.M., said the project initially came to Rotary, but “it's too big for the club.”

Miracle League of Plymouth is getting help from several places. The school district, which will see final site plans for the project next month, has helped, and so has Dietrich, Bailey & Associates, a Plymouth planning firm Madonna said has “been instrumental” in getting the project off the ground.

Now, though, comes the tough part: Raising the $1.1 million it's going to take to get the field built. Miracle League of Plymouth has to raise $500,000 to break ground in April, and Madonna hopes to go over that goal. “We want to make sure we raise enough money to support this after the initial push,” she said. “If you walk away with just enough money to get started, that's not a good way to start.”

In addition to accepting checks and “beating the bushes for donations,” Madonna said, there will be other ways to help. For instance, sponsor signs will be sold on the outfield fence and, for the more industrious potential donors, naming rights to the field will sell for about $150,000. Madonna hopes the community responds the way it always seems to.

“Even in tough times, people are still giving,” she said. “This is what Plymouth does. We're about solving unique problems.” To find out more or to help with donations, visit the Miracle League of Plymouth website at www.miracleleagueplymouth.org

bkadrich@hometownlife.com | (313) 222-8899

http://www.hometownlife.com/article/20100513/NEWS15/5130628/1032/A-chance-to-play http://www.hometownlife.com/article/20100513/NEWS03/5130593/1020/A+chance+to+play

The plan for Miracle League of Plymouth's field behind Central Middle School in downtown Plymouth.