WHEELING - When Lorraine McCardle describes the joy her son Austin and his teammates experience while playing baseball, it gives you goose bumps.
There's nothing like watching them play. And she hopes, soon, that everyone in the Ohio Valley will get a chance to experience it.
McCardle, a Wheeling resident, is raising money to construct the Miracle League of the Ohio Valley field at the J.B. Chambers I-470 Sports Complex in Elm Grove. It's the type of synthetic field that allows children who use walkers, such as McCardle's 9-year-old son Austin, or wheelchairs to play baseball in a safe manner.
Photo by Shelley Hanson
Wheeling resident Lorraine McCardle and her son Austin, 9, are looking forward to playing on a future Miracle League field at the Chambers I-470 ballfield complex in Elm Grove.
To date, she said, about $400,000 has been raised for the project. Local groups that are playing a major role in the project include the Ogden Newspapers, Pirates Charities, which is the charitable arm of the Pittsburgh Pirates, the Community Foundation of the Ohio Valley and others.
McCardle estimated another $200,000 or so is needed for the field. A groundbreaking is expected at some point this summer.
Participants in this year's Ogden Newspapers 20K Classic Run and Walk, scheduled for Friday and Saturday in Wheeling, have the opportunity to do their part for the cause, as all proceeds from the 34th annual event will go to help build the ballfield, said Perry Nardo, general manager of The Intelligencer and Wheeling News-Register.
Nardo said he has received a strong response locally since the January announcement of the Ogden 20K Classic's association with the Miracle Field of the Ohio Valley.
"I have been overwhelmed with the support and backing from local businesses, community leaders and private individuals asking what they could do to help make the Miracle Field a reality," Nardo said. "When the Ogden Newspapers became involved with the race, our goal was to make it a family-oriented event, and donating the proceeds from this year's Ogden 20K to the Miracle League field is just another opportunity for us to give back to the local community."
Once ground is broken on the local field, the Pirates Charities, which plays a major role in The Pirates Charities Miracle League Field of Southwestern Pennsylvania in Cranberry, will be there to lend assistance with planning and fundraising. The organization also will work with local officials and Easter Seals to help raise awareness within the community.
McCardle's work to bring a Miracle field to Wheeling has been ongoing since early 2008. Currently, Austin and his teammates play games outside the area at Miracle Fields such as the one in Cranberry or one in Morgantown, or just on regular baseball diamonds. It's fun, but there is no comparison to playing at home with hometown fans in the stands cheering them on.
"They love to play in the Ohio Valley. ... When people in the valley see it, they will be amazed," she said of a Miracle League game. "It's something they will never forget - the smiles on their faces."
The players' first smiles, she said, appear when they are called to bat, as they get to hear their names called over the loudspeaker, followed by cheers of encouragement from the crowd. The next smiles appear when the child gets a hit and then rounds the bases.
"It's the most moving thing. Once they see it, they'll want to come back," she said of local residents. "The Ohio Valley is a great place. When people can afford it, they make a donation. Every penny counts."
On Friday, as part of this year's Ogden Newspapers 20K Classic Run and Walk, Austin will get to carry the torch during a portion of the annual Torch Relay at 4 p.m. at Osiris Shrine in Elm Grove. Other Easter Seals Rehabilitation clients will follow behind him in a trolley.
To join the Miracle League or to make a donation, call Easter Seals in Wheeling at 304-242-1390.