by Larry Austin
The Miracle League of Grand Island and WNY celebrated another high-water mark in the organization's brief history with Saturday's ribbon-cutting for a new playground in Veterans Park.
The completion of the playground in the Miracle League complex capped six years of efforts and more than $1 million in fundraising to give special-needs children an adaptive playground and ball diamond.
As well as a highlight for the many children who enjoyed the playground Saturday, R.J. Wynne, president of the Miracle League, said the opening of the venue was a tip of the cap to the many volunteers who worked to make the complex a reality, beginning with the first chowder sale fundraiser at McMahon's Family Restaurant six years ago.
The new playground, adjacent to the pavilion and diamond, cost $150,000, Wynne said, including $50,000 for the safety surface and $100,000 for the equipment. The overall complex represents $1 million of in-kind services, donations and expenses. Work on the playground started in the middle of May when the equipment was delivered and ran to the middle of August. "We had 150 volunteers over the summer helping us build this," Wynne said. "Some of them day after day after day."
The ribbon-cutting event also saw the unveiling of three benches dedicated to Miracle League founding members Gale Sander, Teresa Hooper and Fran McMahon. Recently, a tree over the right field fence was planted in honor of another Miracle League benefactor, the late Joan Droit.
The complex is open to all.
"We would just invite everybody in the Western New York community to come and check it out, watch a game, play on the playground," Wynne said.
The next big event at the complex will take place Saturday, Sept. 13, when the Miracle League celebrates Law Enforcement Day. The event, which starts at 1:30 p.m., will feature law enforcement personnel as on-field buddies for Miracle League ballplayers.