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gigging for a miracle
Story by Audrey Hanes, Photo by Amy Long

Since the idea of a local Miracle League complex was first introduced to Jonesboro in 2012, the community has rallied behind the organization both emotionally and financially.

The Miracle League of Jonesboro’s newest fundraiser, a frog gigging tournament that will take place later this month, should put the nonprofit organization one step closer to enabling children and adults with physical and mental challenges to play baseball and other sports.

The Miracle League of Jonesboro’s $2.1 million facilities, which are located off Caraway Road next to the Jonesboro Human Development Center, are set to open in September. Jonesboro’s field will be larger than the average Miracle League field, which will allow it to be used for wheelchair basketball, wheelchair kickball, wheelchair soccer and Special Olympics. The nearby playground, although fun for anyone in the community, will have 28 separate handicap-accessible features.

Sharron Turman, the softball coordinator for the Jonesboro Parks Department, has been spearheading the cause since The Miracle League Foundation chose Jonesboro as its location in Northeast Arkansas. She says that while the community support for the facility has been awe-inspiring, funds are still needed to finish the project.

“We still have a ways to go. … Approximately $700,000,” said Turman. We still need … poles and lights for the ball field, playground and parking lot. The parking lot still has to be paved. The entrance signs will have to be provided. To make this an unbelievable experience for all the children and adults, we want to install a video board/scoreboard. It will include a camera facing home plate so that the children can actually view themselves hitting the ball and running the bases.”

In an effort to raise more money as the facility nears its scheduled grand opening, The Miracle League of Jonesboro is hosting a new fundraiser on July 11. Gigging for a Miracle, a frog gigging tournament, will kick off with registration at 5 p.m., followed by a catfish dinner served by John 3:16 Ministries at 5:30 p.m. at the Southside Softball Complex. Dinner is $10 for the
general public or is included in the $25 entry fee for participating giggers. Frog gigging teams of three will have until the 9 a.m. weigh-in the following morning, July 12, to catch the biggest 20 frogs they can find. There will be prizes for the team with the most weight in frogs, as well as for the largest frog. All participants must have a valid Arkansas fishing license.

“Frog gigging is a very cheap sport, and virtually anyone can do it,” said Turman of the appeal of the unique event. “This sport caters to every age group. If you are from the South, you have heard about the sport or it may be something that you love to do. …

“With The Miracle League, we are always looking to bring new and exciting fundraisers to the community. I think Frank Marrs, the city sexton, is a genius for coming up with this great fundraiser for The Miracle League of Jonesboro. He loves Miracle League, and he is ready to see the smiles on all those children’s faces when they finally get to play the great sport of baseball, just like all their friends.”

Turman says that members of the community such as the Hesch family have been behind the cause from day one.

“Marty and Karen Hesch has been involved with this project from the beginning,” said Turman. “Our first meeting that we held in 2012 with contractors, plumbers, electricians … they were there. They told us without even looking at blueprints that they wanted to be a major contributor. Hesch Construction built the ceilings and the roofs on both the restrooms and the concession building.” The couple’s daughter, Teagan, has since become a Miracle
League ambassador.

The Hesch family also started a local chapter of Best Buddies, a program designed to create opportunities for one-on-one friendships, integrated employment and leadership development for children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Turman says Best Buddies directly ties in with The Miracle League of Jonesboro because each child that goes onto the Miracle League field will have a buddy with them.

“The Miracle League will provide Teagan the opportunity to be a part of a team that allows her to play where abilities are limitless,” said Karen. “The playground will help these children to really soar and experience freedoms they may have never experienced before, especially a child who might be more limited physically.”

The family is looking forward to Gigging for a Miracle because of the unique fundraising opportunity for a cause that is so close to their hearts.

“The frog gigging fundraiser will open the door for young men and women to do something they love in this area of the state while also helping others,” said Karen. “I think when you give to someone else, whether it’s time, money or resources, it provides you with a feeling of self-worth and happiness. Please purchase a ticket, make a donation or be a participant. There are a lot of kids
counting on this community.”

For more information about The Miracle League of Jonesboro or Gigging for a Miracle, contact Turman at 882-5430 or sturman@jonesboro.org or find Miracle League of Jonesboro, AR on Facebook.