Miracle League Field planned as regional resource

Design of the proposed Miracle League field in East Lyme developed by TO Design LLC of New Britain. (Courtesy of East Lyme Parks and Recreation Department)
Design of the proposed Miracle League field in East Lyme developed by TO Design LLC of New Britain. (Courtesy of East Lyme Parks and Recreation Department)

A Miracle League Field proposed for East Lyme will offer an opportunity for children with disabilities from all of the region's communities to participate in sports, said David Putnam, executive director of Miracle League of Southeastern Connecticut.

Putnam, who also is East Lyme's Parks and Recreation director, emphasized to officials from the region this past week that the proposed field — the second of its kind in the state and the first in the area — will serve as a regional facility for children from southeastern Connecticut and western Rhode Island. He gave a presentation on the initiative Wednesday at the Southeastern Connecticut Council of Governments monthly meeting in Norwich.

East Lyme First Selectman Mark Nickerson said families now drive from all over to West Hartford for what is currently the only Miracle League Field in Connecticut. The new field is proposed in East Lyme but it will be a facility for the entire region.

The planned athletic facility will feature a poured-in-place surface accessible to children in wheelchairs and walkers and will serve not only as a baseball field, but also a space for lacrosse, soccer and football, Putnam said. The proposed location, at a field behind Flanders Elementary School, is near Interstate 95 and I-395.

Since the plans were unveiled at an event last November at Flanders Fish Market in East Lyme, more than $150,000 has been raised toward the $550,000 fundraising goal, according to the presentation. The goal is to raise funds independently of municipal taxes, Putnam said.

Nickerson said they are asking the officials and representatives in the region for help in identifying organizations in their communities that can help with fundraising. Local organizations and residents already have been hosting events and raising funds for the effort.

Miracle League of Southeastern Connecticut

The Miracle League of Connecticut is looking to expand within the state, after opening the Miracle League Field in West Hartford in 2012, Putnam said.

East Lyme had established a relationship with the Miracle League through an iCan Bike program last summer that taught students with disabilities how to ride adaptive bicycles. Putnam said it is a great program, not only for participants but also for volunteers. 

When Putnam learned the Miracle League was looking for a site for a new field in southeastern Connecticut, he, with Nickerson's assistance, recommended East Lyme and worked to set up a board of directors and committees, he said.

The Miracle League of Southeastern Connecticut's mission is to provide "opportunities for the region’s children with physical and cognitive challenges to participate in recreational, educational and cultural activities in an accessible, nurturing and noncompetitive environment where families can come together and experience the joy of play," according to the presentation.

"A big thing we have learned through this is how much impact this has on the families, not only the children that participate in the activities but the families that get to watch their kids have a chance to play an activity on an accessible facility," Putnam said. He added that it's also rewarding for the volunteers.

Putnam said the goal for the Miracle League Field is to "have a shovel in the ground at this time next year."

The field is the first phase of the project, while plans for an accessible playscape and restrooms are in later phases, he said.

More information is available at www.mlsect.org or https://www.facebook.com/MLSECT/ or by contacting Putnam at dputnam@eltownhall.com or (860) 739-5828.

k.drelich@theday.com

Upcoming fundraisers

Upcoming fundraisers for the project include:

- Cornhole tournament June 30 at the Niantic VFW Hall

- Mystic Schooners baseball night July 13 at Fitch High School, Groton

- CT Tigers baseball game Aug. 11 at Dodd Stadium, Norwich

- Whiffle ball tournament Aug. 25 at Bridebrook Park, Niantic

- Niantic Bay Oyster Festival on Oct. 6 at St. John's Church, Niantic

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