UNION — The Timken Family Foundation of Canton, Ohio, awarded The Miracle League of Union County with a $25,000 grant this week.
The grant will be used to modify Field No. 1 at the Timken Sports Complex to make it a low-impact surface, allowing disabled children and adults to play baseball. The field will be completely flat and will support any mobility aid including walkers and wheelchairs.
To apply for the grant, Union County Supervisor Tommy Sinclair said questions had to be answered in a format provided by the foundation. He said that Jessica Gallman of the Union County Recreation Department played a large role in the structuring and re-writing of those answers.
“The Timken Foundation has done a lot for Union County,” Sinclair said, citing the foundation’s assistance to local entities such as the Union County Carnegie Library, Timken Sports Complex and Buffalo Volunteer Fire Department.
In addition to the grant, the Timken Foundation also offered up a challenge to The Miracle League of Union County and members of the community. If $60,000 can be raised locally by Aug. 13, the foundation will match the funds with an additional $60,000.
Amy Austin, Miracle League of Union County co-chair, said this is when those who have expressed interest in assisting the Miracle League should step up to the plate.
Austin first learned about Miracle League through her son Chandler’s involvement. Chandler played in the Carolina Miracle League in Boiling Springs, which meant an hour drive two nights a week.
“So many families in Union could benefit from Miracle League but just can’t get there,” Austin said, pointing out that according to the Disability Action Center in Columbia, 15 percent of the population in Union County has some type of disabling condition including speech impairments.
“Out of adults and children playing baseball in Union right now, there are not a lot with disabilities. In Miracle League, everybody can play ball.”
“Why should we have to wait any longer for our child or adult with disabilities to be able to play baseball?” Austin added. “We shouldn’t have to drive an hour to enjoy things we could enjoy right here at home.”
About three weeks ago, the Miracle League of Union County received another shot in the arm by way of a PARD (Parks and Recreation Department) grant of around $47,000, of which Union County has to match 20 percent. Sinclair said county council voted months ago to pursue the grant.
Becky Cobb< Union County recreation director, said Union County is a step ahead in the process since the site has already been donated.
“The county stepped up and donated that first ballfield at Timken,” Cobb said. “Other organizations say the biggest drawback is finding land.”
The project to transform Timken Sports Complex Field No. 1 into a Miracle League field will cost a total of $255,000. With the recent grant awards, The Miracle League has raised nearly $100,000. Raising another $60,000 locally, which would prompt the Timken Foundation to match with another $60,000 would put project completion well within Union County’s reach.
Sinclair said the project would have never started if he didn’t see the end in sight.
“Now I’m more comfortable than ever,” he said.
Plans have also been discussed regarding the use of the Miracle League Field to host Wounded Warrior Amputee softball and baseball games, as well as other sports for those who require a low-impact surface.
The Miracle League of Union County will sponsor a booth at the Union County Agricultural Fair (Oct. 16 to Oct. 20), where the group will unveil and introduce its newest addition — Homer, the Miracle League mascot. Homer will meet and greet fans each night of the fair, beginning with a special presentation on opening night.
To make a donation, send checks made payable to Miracle League of Union County, P.O. Box 425, Union, SC 29379.
For more information, find “The Miracle League of Union County” on Facebook, or contact Amy Austin by emailing email@example.com or calling (864) 466-7879.
Staff Writer Derik Vanderford can be reached at 864-427-1234, ext. 29, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.