Miracles do come true. On a recent Saturday morning, the second season of the Miracle League began. The two baseball games played that morning launched the Miracle League into another inspirational season.
The games marked the last season openers for this special league, designed for disabled players, to be played on a full-sized, public high school softball field. Beginning this spring, the Miracle League’s new Lake Houston Adaptive Sports Complex will be open for play, with a groundbreaking tentatively scheduled for Saturday, Oct.1. It is a dream come true for not only the children, but also for the volunteers behind the project. It is the culmination of a lot of fund-raising, planning and plain hard work by a lot of good people.
Insperity has pledged $1 million toward the costs.
Joe and Cathy Cleary, Pat and Mark Koenig, Rick Byrd and Twila Clark are among the fully committed community leaders making it happen, along with the commitment and teamwork of the Lake Houston YMCA, the Humble Independent School District and Insperity among others.
Joe Cleary explained the story behind building the complex in the Humble area.
“I am a general contractor and have lived in Kingwood for 26 years, very involved in the YMCA, the school district and involved with the Village Learning Achievement Center. I have been associated with the school district’s education foundation for a few years, and there was always a discussion about special needs and sports, YMCA programs, special kids nights out and other things like that, which we were always involved in,” Cleary said.
He explained that the chief financial officer at his company served as the board chairman of the Langham Creek YMCA where they had embraced the Miracle League concept. Over a three-year period, the community raised enough money to build a Miracle Field designed to meet the special needs of disabled children, both physically and mentally. In the first season, they had 30 children participating. The program has now grown to 120 children participating at Langham Creek.
It was that experience that gave birth to the idea of a similar program in the Humble area. The lesson Cleary and his wife Cathy learned from attending the grandopening of the Langham Creek complex was clear: “Build it and they will come,” Cleary said. After that opening day, he and Cathy came home with one thought in mind.
“This is it; we’ve got to do this in the Humble area,” Cleary said. He knew there were already organizations in the area that would be interested in joining the effort. The Lake Houston YMCA, the Humble ISD Education Foundation and the Village Achievement Center all shared a common interest in providing special needs not readily available in the area.
The Clearys shared their idea with the leaders at the YMCA, Kim Brusatori of the Village Learning and Achievement Center and leaders at Insperity. The response was immediate and enthusiastic.
Cleary described Mark and Pat Koenig’s’ immediate reaction: “Mark said he was in and would do anything for it and he really has,” Cleary said.
Cleary said the next step was a meeting with Dr. Guy Sconzo, superintendent of Humble ISD, now recently retired. Sconzo responded that he had the perfect location for the complex, The Groves residential area on West Lake Houston Parkway where the school district owns 45 acres. An elementary school and a middle school will be built there in the next two years. With a good location available, the serious planning began.
“We’re plunkin' it down right in the middle of the 45 acres,” Cleary said.
“The Lake Houston YMCA will have a use agreement with the school district. They will run it and use it for all their integrated sports. When a middle school is built, that is typically where the school district’s special needs programs go, so the result will be full utilization of the complex six days a week and sometimes seven,” Cleary said.
Cleary said the fundraising efforts have been successful and will continue to be important for operating the facility. The YMCA and the Humble ISD Education Foundation are the main fundraisers with Cleary and Koenig doing much of the work.
Insperity has agreed to contribute $1,000,000 over a five-year period in support of the ongoing complex. Jay Mincks, executive vice president for sales and marketing, said, “It fits right into our corporate culture and values. Located in our own community, it is likely we may have employees who themselves will be able to take advantage of the complex with their own kids. It is the right thing to do.”
The complex will be a five-acre sports facility and will include a pavilion that accommodates concessions, storage areas and a small office. Just behind the pavilion, a covered basketball court will be available for use by siblings of those actually playing softball or for wheelchair basketball games.
Two specially outfitted softball fields will be laid with a synthetic surface and striped for softball, but adaptable to other sports field configurations. Because the field surfaces will be built with special synthetic material, they will be useable in wet weather andcan be easily dried off, which means the fields will never be closed due to muddy, slippery or wet weather conditions. Included are team dugouts that will accommodate wheelchairs and other special needs such as walkers and hand holds.
The complex will include an adaptive playground area equipped with rows and ramps for wheelchairs and walkers so that they are accessible to children with those special needs. In addition, there will be a sensory station for use by children with autistic or other disabilities. The entire facility will a the synthetic rather than natural surface to make it safer and easier for maneuvering through wet conditions and will be lighted for night use.