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miracles in the making
Story by Casey Rinaldi and Audrey Poff; photography by Amy Long

After years of planning, fundraising and construction, the city’s own field of dreams will come to life on Oct. 25 when The Miracle League of Jonesboro officially opens. The Miracle League works to remove the barriers that keep children with mental and physical disabilities off the baseball field to allow them to experience the joy of America’s favorite pastime. The opening of the Jonesboro facility, which will include a barrier-free playground, will mark the third location in the state for The Miracle League, with previous establishments located in Little Rock and Northwest Arkansas.

The Jonesboro location will be larger than other facilities that are affiliated with The Miracle League. The additional space will allow the Jonesboro facility to accommodate wheelchair sports, such as wheelchair baseball, basketball and kickball, including a scoreboard/ videoboard to keep track of game results, as
well as 28 different handicap-accessible features for both children and adults.

Sharron Turman, the softball coordinator for the Jonesboro Parks and Recreation Department, has been at the forefront of this project ever since Jonesboro was chosen as the official location for the chapter in Northeast Arkansas. She has been assisting the organization with various fundraising events, including Gigging for a Miracle in July, in which teams of three were given the entire evening to capture the largest 20 frogs that they could find for prizes.

“The Gigging for a Miracle event was very successful,” said Turman. “We
expected 10-15 teams and we had 38.” The second annual Gigging For a Miracle has been scheduled for May 1, 2015, and additional fundraisers are on the horizon. When asked about her expectations for the grand opening of the Jonesboro facility, Turman is very optimistic, especially with several other events being held near the site that same weekend.

“We are thinking there will be hundreds of people in attendance,” she said. “We are also hosting the fifth annual Halloween Monster Mash Bash Youth Softball
Tournament at Southside Softball the same weekend. We wanted our softball players that have helped with fundraisers and made a donation to be a part of this great ceremony.

We will also have a Colordash 5K Run in conjunction with the grand opening.”
And, in the event that a certain celebrity from the Field of Dreams movie
that organizers have invited is able to attend, Turman said they are prepared.

“Just in case Kevin Costner comes, we’ve got our field of corn planted.”
Turman described how her personal involvement with the Miracle League
organization began several years ago.

“I ran across The Miracle League while searching for grants in 2004,” she
said. “I typed in the word ‘baseball’ in the computer and the word ‘Miracle League’ came up. As the video was playing, it was as if God tapped me on the shoulder and said to me, ‘This is something that you need to do.’ Several things happened in between 2004-2011, but I went to work for the city of Jonesboro in 2011 and I showed Mayor (Harold) Perrin the Miracle League materials in August 2011 and he said this would be a great opportunity for the city
and for the special needs community.”

As of the end of September, work was still progressing on The Miracle League site.“George Stem, our project construction manager, is on the job site every day,” said Turman. “He has been such a blessing. Without him, there is no way that we would be where we are today.”

Stem, chief executive officer and founder of Construction Network Inc.,
said the community has pulled together to make the project possible. “Jeremy Bevill, civil engineer for Haywood, Kenward, Bare and Associates, and Todd Welch and Kyle Cook of Brackett-Krennerich Architects, those three guys made this all work. Everybody has pulled together. I have three pages of names of people who have donated their services to The Miracle League of Jonesboro. Everybody is doing a lot to make this happen.”

Turman also commended Perrin and Jonesboro Parks Director Wixon Huffstetler
for their roles in making sure The Miracle League of Jonesboro becomes a reality.“The mayor went to a local bank and received a $500,000 credit line to finish the project,” said Turman. “The donations are coming in almost daily and we are working diligently to finish by October 25th. We will still need to raise money to pay back the credit and we will need some funds as the complex opens.”

Perrin said the grand opening of the facility will be the culmination of a huge
project that has involved many people and organizations in the community.
“It has taken a little longer than we had anticipated, but we wanted to do it right,”

said Perrin. “Sharron Turman … visited Miracle League fields all over the United
States to see how other fields were built and what their experiences were. One of the things we learned was that the cities that had built one wished they had made it bigger. So, we decided to make it the biggest field in the United States at 25,800 square feet, about three times the size of the Rotary Park at Craighead Forest.”

When asked about the city’s role in regards to completing the project,
Perrin clarified that The Miracle League facility is not a government project, but a community one.

“It will wind up being a $3.1 million project, and I believe we’ll find that quite a bargain, considering what we are getting,” he said. The mayor noted that public opinion toward The Miracle League project has been overwhelmingly positive.

“The fact that so many people have contributed in so many ways tells us that
the people of Jonesboro think that The Miracle League and this field is a great
idea,” he said. “People think that we ought to provide a place for every adult and child who wants to play baseball or softball.” Turman is passionate about what the new facility will mean for families with special needs children in the area.

“The Miracle League of Jonesboro cannot cure any physical problems, but
we can provide a safe place where children with special needs can come and play the sports that they have had to stay behind a fence and watch,” she said. “Families will be able to visit the playground and make new memories with their children. I know people have made sacrifices to make this dream come true. It is going to be so worth it when we experience the smiles and joy that it brings to our community.”

The mayor had a message for any disabled child or family member who is interested in participating in The Miracle League’s activities. “The message for every child and adult who can use this field is that the Jonesboro community cares about you,” Perrin said.“We’ve built a field of dreams just for you, only it’s real and it has all the latest equipment and facilities for people with special needs. Let the games begin.”

Grand opening ceremonies for The Miracle League of Jonesboro is scheduled for
Oct. 25 at 10 a.m. For more information, contact Turman at (870) 932-4604 or e-mail her at sturman@jonesboro.org.