by Larry Austin
Matt Chorey lives near Veterans Park and is waiting for the day when he can have the chance to play baseball just like every other child on the Island.
So, the April 15 groundbreaking in the park of the new Sabres Miracle League Field for athletes with special needs heralded more than the start of ground work, it symbolized gratitude and appreciation.
Islander Teresa Hooper, president of the Miracle League of Grand Island and Western New York, said "thank you really hit home" to her when she spoke with Michael Chorey, Matt's father, as construction of the field began earlier this month. The older Chorey told Hooper his son was so anxiously awaiting the field's completion that he enjoyed sitting on the front porch just listening to the sounds of the construction taking place.
Hooper said: "They opened the doors and they could hear the equipment and they could hear the trucks, and he was so excited. And Mike just said to him, 'You know, Matty, they're building your field.' "
Sometime this summer, completion of the Sabres Miracle League Field - specially designed to accommodate children in wheelchairs, who use walkers, or who have other disabilities - will allow the first games to begin. Fundraising for the field that began less than a year ago was kicked into high gear with the Buffalo Sabres Foundation and the Buffalo Sabres Alumni Association donating a combined $150,000. Sabres alumni were on hand to help turn the first shovels of dirt.
"I believe that this is one of the greatest things that Veterans Park has and will continue to have," Town Supervisor Peter McMahon said at the ceremony. "I've never seen anything go this fast in government in my life."
"We've done extremely well to come this far. Teresa's touched all the bases," Sabres alumnus Larry Playfair said. "The people ... that are doing this have gone out of their way to make things happen quicker than maybe anybody else thought they would, and it's going to happen. I don't know if it's going to happen by July, but I wouldn't doubt it. Teresa said it, and everything else she's said has come true."
Playfair noted the passage of state legislation that allowed the alumni organization to increase its charitable giving. Joe McMahon, representing Assemblyman Sam Hoyt, read a statement from Hoyt that noted his pride in producing legislation that raised the cap on raffle contributions from $100,000 to $500,000.
"By raising the cap, the Buffalo Sabres Alumni Association can raise more money, which gets turned back out to local communities through non-profits and charities in these tough economic times," Hoyt wrote.
Hooper thanked a long list of those who donated time and material "to make the dream of playing baseball come true." Her list included: the Jerome Funk Family; Linda Tufillaro of the Town of Grand Island Recreation Department; Town Supervisor Peter McMahon; John Whitney of the town's engineering department; Tom Long and Jim Dinsmore of Sam Long Construction; Kevin Lesika and Fischer Associates for their surveying; Dan Drexelius of Double D Construction; John Yensan and Ontario Specialty Company for the drainage pipe and fabric; Vallano Brothers for drainage pipe; Frank DiMaria of Frank's Landscaping and Mr. Plumber; Erick Ackerman of Ackerman Hubesch Plumbing; Bob Hobba of Weyman Electric; Mike Sexton of HMS Electric; Charlie Galante of Galante Concrete; Peter Masaro of Masaro Concrete; Zambino Concrete; design engineer Dave Dousenberry; Modern Corporation; bulldozer operators Dan Wood and Erick Weiser; LaFarge North America for stone, black top and concrete; Ed Colan for trucking along with Beck Trucking and J. Buscaglia Trucking; Lyle Dinsmore of LDC Construction for sewer and water; Dick, Bill and Joe Knabb of Knabb Brothers Construction for landscaping; Mike Kelly of Arrow Builders; Mike Hooper of Hooper Builders; Patrick Hooper of Hooper Restoration; Dan Hooper of Hooper Construction; Dave Denk, Tom Popovic of Copper Valley Construction; Jim and Jeff Gardner of Gardner and Son's Paving; Buffalo Glass Block; Eric Fiebelkorn of Toshiba; Joe Ferage at Buffalo Printing; Tom Obrachta of E.J. Prescott Company; and Leo Myers of Selmore Building Products.