GULF BREEZE — Volunteers on the south end of Santa Rosa County want to bring baseball to those with developmental disabilities through the national nonprofit organization Miracle League.
“We have many members of our community, both children and adults, who have needs that make playing the game of baseball difficult,” lead organizer Brook Whiffen said. “Our league will provide an opportunity for members of our local community to experience youth and adult baseball, regardless of mental or physical disability.”
Whiffen and fellow organizers estimate 200, if not more, individuals with disabilities would be interested in this endeavor.
“In February, we sponsored Night to Shine, a prom for folks with special needs,” he said. It took place at Community Life United Methodist Church in Gulf Breeze.
“We had 170 guests sign up and realized once we reached that amount, we didn’t have the physical space; we had more people try to sign up,” he said.
The motivation for playing baseball is only partly about being physically active, according to Whiffen.
“A lot of people at Night to Shine (compete) in the Special Olympics,” he said. “We see it from an athletic standpoint but a social standpoint as well. We’re gathering together to do something fun.”
Whiffen and his fellow volunteers are waiting to hear back from the national Miracle League organization regarding the application and $500 fee they submitted. In the meantime, volunteers are working on finding a field and fundraising.
“We’re working on sitting with the Board of County Commissioners to lay out a vision and explore options with them,” Whitten said.
“When you look at the national level, they estimate the cost at $250(,000) to $800,000,” Whiffen said. “For $500,000, you get basic fields, dugouts and no scoreboard, but it’s enough for people to play on. As you scale up, you get better; (a) scoreboard and shaded dugouts. In addition, we’d like to build a wheelchair-accessible playground next to the field…
“We’d love to be able to do the whole thing. We’re just not that far in the process yet.”