Players, buddies are all smiles in Miracle League
The smiles – it’s all about the smiles, according to Patty Kelbley, who works in Global Procurement for MPC and volunteers as a Buddy for the Miracle League of Findlay. “It’s a nonstop smile from the time you get to the field to the time you leave,” said Kelbley, who couldn’t stop smiling as she talked about the experience. “It’s such a joyful place – the epitome of happiness.”
The Miracle League of Findlay opened its first baseball season in the fall of 2016 with 60 players on six teams. The league opened its second season in April with 85 players. Increased participation is expected this fall, and the league will expand to eight teams.
The mission of the Miracle League of Findlay is to provide a safe and fun environment where those with special needs can play baseball in a stadium of their own, where the rules are limited, the love unconditional, and the joy infectious.
Buddies are volunteers who ensure the safety of the players and create a fun, inclusive environment for them. The program allows players the full experience of being on a traditional baseball team – something they may otherwise be unable to do. It also gives parents the chance to be spectators while their children play in the game, an opportunity not always offered to parents of children with special needs.
The field is located behind The Cube on North Main Street in Findlay, next to traditional baseball fields. It’s equipped with lights and an electronic scoreboard, and every player gets to see his or her picture, name and jersey number on the big screen. An accessible playground and picnic area are nearby, as well.
As a Buddy, Kelbley was paired with Mateo, an 8-year-old boy who loves to be on the field. The Miracle League aims for a one-to-one ratio of buddies to players; the Findlay league will need additional buddies when the fall season begins. No prior baseball experience is necessary – just a passion for helping others enjoy life.
"There’s an energy to seeing what these young people can accomplish,” said Kelbley, who can be spotted with a red ribbon in her hair in support of her team, the Reds. “They’re so happy. Mom and Dad are in the stands cheering alongside Grandma, Grandpa and siblings. Everyone is cheering for everyone.”
The Miracle League of Findlay is supported by MPC, Blanchard Valley Health System and others, including Two Oak Ltd., which provided the Buddy T-shirts and is owned by Kelbley’s husband, Mark. On a recent trip to Arizona, where the couple spends a lot of time, Patty and Mark visited a Miracle League field near Phoenix; they plan to participate in some ball games there, as well.