In what was a project dear to the heart of former Coastal Alabama Business Chamber President and CEO Ed Rodriguez, Miracle League of Coastal Alabama broke ground on a playground and baseball field that will cater to handicapped children.
Rodriguez died Jan. 7, 2017, of complications from diabetes, but he has not been forgotten as one of his favorite projects is moving forward.
“There’s been about $1 million raised and of that $19,000 was donated in memory of Ed,” Orange Beach Councilman Jerry Johnson said.
Officials and volunteers gathered on Aug. 1 on land donated by the city of Summerdale to have a groundbreaking for Baldwin County’s own Miracle League complex. With the $1 million raised there’s still about $1.8 million needed to bring the dream to life.
Miracle League of Coastal Alabama President Bruce White said he is excited his organization will make this happen for the county’s special-needs children.
“They’ll tell you there’s not a lot for them to do in this county. This is going to be a major park for them, specifically designed for them,” White said.
White first began pursuing a Miracle League way back in 2004, Fundraising Chair Ginny Barnas said, but several stumbling blocks presented themselves.
“He saw a story about this little girl and a Miracle League field that had been built in a little town in Georgia,” Barnas said. “He said that we needed that here. Then we had the hurricanes, Ivan and Katrina. In 2008 we had everything with the economic downturn and the recovery from that and then we had the oil spill.”
When he restarted the effort in 2015, he first approached the Gulf Shores City Council presenting an effort through his local Lions Club to bring a Miracle League field to town. But finding a place to build it was the first problem he had to solve.
“We couldn’t get land in Gulf Shores, we couldn’t get land in Orange Beach, we couldn’t get land in Foley and finally we approached Summerdale,” Barnas said. “They said, here you go, and they gave us five acres to build the park. Summerdale has been great.”
In Alabama, there are 19 Miracle League fields including those in Hartselle, Dothan and Huntsville. Closer to home, Pensacola has three Miracle League fields.
“What’s going to be exciting is they will be able to come over here and play and we’re going to be able to go over there and play,” Barnas said. “Special-needs kids always got to watch their brothers and sisters play, but this will be their time to go play their game.”
Several companies have pitched in as well with Gates Construction and Ard Construction helping secure Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM) permits to clear the way for construction. R&D Paving will now start on getting the infrastructure in place at the park.
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