Fundraising campaign begins to bring Miracle League Sports Field to East Lyme

The East Lyme Parks and Recreation Department and Miracle League of Southeastern Connecticut unveiled Monday the design of a proposed Miracle League field in East Lyme (developed by TO Design LLC of New Britain). (Plans courtesy of East Lyme Parks and Recreation Department)
The East Lyme Parks and Recreation Department and Miracle League of Southeastern Connecticut unveiled Monday the design of a proposed Miracle League field in East Lyme (developed by TO Design LLC of New Britain). (Plans courtesy of East Lyme Parks and Recreation Department)

East Lyme — The town's Parks and Recreation Department and the Miracle League of Southeastern Connecticut announced on Monday plans to build a field that would be accessible to children with disabilities.

Parks and Recreation Director David Putnam, who is also the director of the new Miracle League of Southeastern Connecticut, said the goal would be to pay for The Miracle League Sports Field on the grounds of the Flanders Elementary School solely through private funds. The fundraising goal is half a million dollars.

The project would be the second Miracle League Field in Connecticut, and the first for the region, Putnam said. A Miracle League Field was built in West Hartford in 2012.

The multipurpose field, which would be located behind the school, would likely have a rubberized surface with bleachers and dugouts, and a fence, and would be a space for children with physical and developmental challenges to play baseball, lacrosse, soccer and flag football, among other sports, he said.

This summer, about 29 children participated in the first iCan Bike program in East Lyme, a partnership among Parks and Recreation Department, the Miracle League, and iCan Shine Inc., to teach individuals with disabilities how to ride a bicycle independently.

When Mike Michaud, executive director of the Miracle League of Connecticut told Putnam that there isn't a Miracle League Field in southeastern Connecticut, Putnam said he challenged himself to get the project completed and without taxpayer dollars within two to three years. He said the site at the Flanders School is an open grassy area and is close to Interstate 95, so it's accessible to children throughout the region.

The Miracle League paid TO Design of New Britain to develop a site plan and cost estimates for the project, he said.

He said the project has approval from the Parks and Recreation Commission, and the Board of Education approved moving forward with the concept and the location at Flanders School. The project is in the very early stages of development and would still need other approvals, including from the planning and zoning commissions.

Putnam said the new Miracle League of Southeastern Connecticut is chartered with the national Miracle League and he is looking to set up a board of directors to help with fundraising and ideas for recreational programs.

Putnam said that he hopes the East Lyme field can be used for more than sports, but also events, such as trick-or-treating events for children with disabilities, similar to the field in West Hartford. He said students from Flanders could go out to the field to play wiffle ball or kickball, for example, during physical education classes or recess.

"Let's use it as a community park," he said.

Michaud said the West Hartford field began as an initiative for baseball, but it became so much more. He said it is about families getting together, developing friendships and the outpouring of love from the community through volunteerism.

About 60 people, including members of the Miracle League, Parks and Recreation, local boards and commissions, state Sen. Paul Formica, R-East Lyme, state Rep. Holly Cheeseman, R-East Lyme, and First Selectman Mark Nickerson, attended the unveiling of the plans at Flanders Fish Market.

Conceptual plans show a multi-purpose field for the first phase, along with a second phase of the project which would be an accessible playscape. The third phase of the project calls for restrooms and a storage area.

Shawn Van Dusen of Salem, whose 13-year-old son, Colby, can now ride a bike after participating in the iCan Bike program this summer, said the field will offer opportunities for his son and other children to participate in sports, where there currently aren't too many opportunities.

People who would like to donate to the field can visit www.miracleleaguect.org/ELdonate or mail a check, payable to The Miracle League of Southeastern CT, to The Miracle League of CT, 47 Upson St., Bristol, CT 06010.

k.drelich@theday.com

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