Special needs children get ready to play ball
Wednesday, April 02, 2008
By Pete McCarthy pmccarthy@sjnewsco.com

DEPTFORD TWP. The weather couldn't dampen the spirits of politicians, parents and Bankbridge children who came out Tuesday morning to break ground on what will soon be a ball field for children with special needs.

It will be called Miracle Field, appropriately so, because it will give all children in Gloucester County a chance to play the American past-time: Baseball.
"The smiles on their faces and the sense of accomplishment is priceless," Freeholder Director Stephen Sweeney said. "It might be raining, but the sun is shining in my mind."

The 14,900-square-foot facility will be made of a specially designed rubberized turf so that it is accessible to youngsters in wheelchairs. It will be built behind the Bankbridge Elementary School, and be accessible to any young person between the ages of 6 and 21 in Gloucester County with special needs.

"Regardless of ability or disability, this gives everyone an opportunity to play baseball," said Fred Keating, superintendent of the Gloucester County Special Services School District.

Dennis McNulty, whose 18-year-old daughter Keely will be on the team, said this will reinforce "all the good qualities that sports has to offer." "Sports, like academics, gets these young adults ready for life," said McNulty, a resident of Wenonah. "It teaches them life skills just like in school. This is an additional opportunity to come out and participate with her peers and continue to develop."

The field will cost $600,000 to construct. The county will pay about $100,000 and the rest will come from other resources, including contributions of $100,000 from ADS Pipe of Logan Township, and $5,000 each from the Delaware River Port Authority and Nicolosi Caterers. The county Special Services Education Foundation raised $107,000.

"Hopefully, in another six months, we will be out here announcing, Play ball,'" said Freeholder Joseph Brigandi Jr.

Registration will begin shortly, said Ryan Dougherty, Miracle League coordinator. Any child in Gloucester County with special needs will be eligible. Dougherty said he hopes to get at least 100 kids to participate when the field is ready this fall.


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