Orion Twp. receives award for the Miracle League Field of North Oakland

By Jim Newell
Review Editor
ORION TWP. — From the cheers and tears of their friends and families, the applause of the approximately 1,500 people who showed up to support the special needs athletes, there was an overwhelming emotion of joy when the kids and young adults took to the field for the first game at the Miracle League of North Oakland on Aug. 9, 2019.
Now, Orion Township has been awarded the 2023 Great Lakes Park, Facility, or Program Award for developing and operating the Miracle League Field of North Oakland at Friendship Park.
“We are honored that we were chosen for this award; it’s a testament to the hard work and dedication of the Orion Township team. The Miracle League Field is one of the most exciting projects I’ve been a part of since I became supervisor,” Orion Township Supervisor Chris Barnett said.
The Miracle League Field provides children with physical and cognitive challenges an opportunity to play baseball in an organized league on a field specially designed to fit their needs.
“The idea of inclusivity was in our minds for years; we were determined to make it happen. As soon as we brought this project to the community’s attention, everyone came together, and supporters rallied and raised over one million dollars to make this field a reality,” Barnett said.
The Great Lakes Park Training Institute annually presents this award in recognition of park facilities and programs completed within the last five years that represent the cutting edge of the leisure movement throughout the United States. These projects represent innovative, cost-effective design, demonstrate the use of community input and resources and make a significant impact on their community.
The development of the field – which is completely funded by donations – started as the Orion on Deck project. Independence Township and Easterseals Michigan joined in and, with the additional resources, the project grew into the Miracle League Field.
The field has wheelchair accessible dugouts; a custom-designed, synthetic turf field that accommodates wheelchairs and other assistive devices while helping to prevent injuries; and an announcers’ booth and bleachers.
A concession stand has also been built near the field.
“The Miracle League’s mantra is: every child deserves the opportunity to play baseball,” said Steve Peck, founder of the Miracle League of Michigan, who was at the opening of the Miracle League Field and served as an announcer.
As each player steps up to home plate they have their own “walk-up” music playing – like they’re at the World Series, and everyone is cheering for them.
Each player has a “buddy” that assists them during the game. Buddies can be fellow classmates, family members, business leaders, students, or anyone who wishes to volunteer their time to give a child the gift of baseball, whether it’s for one day, or the entire season.
Buddies assist players with hitting the ball and “running” the bases. Anyone interested in becoming a buddy can visit MichiganMiracle.org for more information.
Orion Township officials will be formally presented with the Great Lakes Park, Facility, or Program Award on Feb. 28, 2023, during an awards reception.

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