Players find friends while giving back to community

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By Nathan Deen

Published on October 24, 2007

As part of getting involved with community events, the PJC women’s basketball team volunteered to participate in the Miracle League of Pensacola this year. The Miracle League gives mentally and/or physically disabled people of all ages, though most are children, a chance to play the sport of baseball.

  “We’re meeting a lot of new friends,” said PJC women’s basketball Head Coach Chanda Rigby, “and seeing a whole new way of life out here.”

  Rigby and her team were very enthusiastic about helping the players on the field. Each PJC athlete walked up to one of the players and asked them if they wanted to be her partner. After finding a partner, each athlete would assist the players with anything they needed help with.

  “I can’t wait to go back there next weekend and do it again,” said sophomore guard Victoria Hunt.

  The Miracle League conducts games for more than 150 participants every Saturday for six weeks in the fall.

  “It gives them the chance to do what mainstream children do everyday,” said Larry Thompson, vice president and co-founder of the Miracle League. “Parents deserve the opportunity to let them be everyday kids. You feel like when you leave you’ve made somebody’s day a little bit better and it’s just a lot of fun.”

  Thompson started the Miracle League in 2002 with his wife, Donna. The Miracle League has been gaining support from the Pensacola area ever since. Several high schools, local colleges, numerous church groups and the Pensacola Pelicans have volunteered to ‘buddy’ with the participants.

  Thompson says that the biggest contributor to the Miracle League is Ford Motor Company. The field on which the Miracle League games are played, located at the Ensley ball parks, is made entirely of the rubber found in tires, which was donated by Ford.

  The Thompsons can usually be found at the concession stand serving drinks, hamburgers, hot dogs, and nachos. Rich Mandes, President of the Miracle League, can be found right behind the home plate side of the field announcing who is up to bat and calling the game play by play.

  Thompson says that not only is the Miracle League an opportunity for the disabled but it is also a real treat for the parents to watch their kids on the field.

  Terrie Langham, whose 23-year-old son Adam plays in the Miracle League, says that her son could only sit on the sidelines while he was in the NEP league and watch his friends play.

  “I think it’s about time that we have a league where our kids can play,” she said.

 The Miracle League will continue from now until Nov. 3. For more information and photos, visit www.miracleleaguepensacola.org.

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