The old adage, “It’s not whether you win or lose, it’s how you play the game,” are words that especially resonate every time The Miracle League of Connecticut hosts a baseball game at its immaculate field in West Hartford.
The Miracle League launched 11 years ago as a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing athletic opportunities for children with physical and cognitive disabilities. The organization lives its motto that “every child deserves a chance to play,” says Mike Michaud, the league’s executive director.
“This gives these families a place to be and provides a true community feel for those who participate,” Mike said. It took two years and $350,000 to create the West Hartford Miracle Field, the first of its kind in New England. The league hosts games on weekends in both the spring and fall baseball seasons. About 120 players participate in the spring and 75 in the fall.
The organization has also since built a playground and is assisting other communities in Connecticut as they build their own fields and create programs. “One of the highlights is that this goes beyond baseball. In our 11 years of existence, all our games have been ‘ties’ because the score is irrelevant. The parents, players and volunteers all leave that field as winners.”
Michaud notes that the funds for the facility, located in the West Hartford Little League complex across from the former UConn-West Hartford campus, are privately funded. He also added that volunteers are the backbone to ensure the games are safe and a fun experience for participants.
“Our goal is to give the parents of our athletes a break so they can just sit back and enjoy watching their kids play,” says Michaud, who added that most people learn about Miracle League through word of mouth, its website and on social media. Local high school and college players also participate on game days, bringing energy and enthusiasm to the facility.
“We have more than 100 volunteers of all ages so the community engagement has been fantastic.”
The baseball component of the Miracle League has become so popular that the organization now offers additional programs to participants with mobility issues. It sponsors the “I Can Bike” summer camp and partners with the Hospital for Special Care in New Britain to provide Miracle League Adapted Swim Lessons. Also, a Family Bowling League, an Adaptive Dance Program, and a LEGO based program are offered. Each fall, the organization also hosts “Trick or Treat – Miracle League Style.” The event features nearly 50 local businesses, civic groups and families on the Miracle League Field to create a safe setting so more than 400 children can enjoy Halloween.
While located in West Hartford, The Miracle League welcomes families from communities across Connecticut and surrounding states. More than 40 towns are represented from Newtown to Springfield, Mass. Michaud said that his group – as pioneers of this work – are also supporting efforts in East Lyme and Vernon who have built Miracle Fields in those towns.
“We couldn’t do any of this without the hard work and support of our participants, their families, our volunteers and sponsors,” said Michaud, a retired mail carrier who now dedicates his full effort to ensuring a rewarding experience for Miracle League athletes. “It’s exciting and rewarding to work with an organization that I am so passionate about, and the people are the ones who make it all worthwhile.
For more information on The Miracle League and to volunteer, visit Miracleleaguect.org.