“It’s more than just baseball.”
When he talks about Whitfield County’s Miracle League, Soft Surface Territory Manager Chip Hicks can’t help but repeat that phrase.
As the father of a child with special needs and the league’s co-director, he knows firsthand the impact the Miracle League has had on families and players. Now in its sixth season, the league includes 125 children and adults with special needs who spend their Saturdays on the diamond during four back-to-back games.
But none of that would be possible if it weren’t for a donation from Mohawk and support from the northwest Georgia community. Back in 2010, Chip and 11 others set out to raise $350,000 to construct the field. Despite the largest economic downturn in decades, the group raised the money in just two short years.
“I will never forget the day – New Year’s Day – when I got the call that the Mohawk donation had been approved,” Chip said. “It was a great feeling.”
The Miracle League celebrated its opening day in 2012. For Chip’s daughter, Peyton, who has special needs, it was a dream come true.
"Peyton would come home from school asking to sign up for sports activities, and we'd have to tell her 'no,'" Chip said. “And with this, we were able to tell her ‘yes.’”
After watching her sister play softball growing up, Peyton finally had the opportunity to play, as well. During each game, players are paired with a buddy who helps them run the bases, bat, or protect them in the field of play. Chip explained that some lifelong friendships have formed because of the buddy system and some lives have been changed because of the league.
This became increasingly apparent when the Miracle League lost their first player due to a lifelong illness.
"When I attended the visitation, his family had his Miracle League jersey and trophies placed on his casket," Chip remembers. “I knew it was important to him, but I had no idea it was impacting him in that way.”
Playing in the league is completely free for all players. Keeping the cost down for families has been a key part of the league since many of them have medical expenses, Chip explained.
“The games also allow parents time to relax and talk to other parents who may have some things in common and may be facing some common challenges,” he said. “That’s what it’s all about. It’s so much more than baseball.”
For more information about the Miracle League or to sign up as a buddy, visit whitfieldcountymiracleleague.com.