O.B. donates $20K to Miracle League of Coastal Alabama; City will also match other Baldwin government donations up to $100K

 O.B. donates $20K to Miracle League of Coastal Alabama
City will also match other Baldwin government donations up to $100K
By John Mullen & Fran Thompson
Orange Beach pledged $20,000 to the Miracle League of Coastal Alabama and has pledged to match donations from other Baldwin County governments up to a total of $100,000 at the Oct. 5 council meeting agenda.
The total cost of the project to be built on land donated by the city of Summerdale is estimated at about $2.7 million. Building the park is part of the Gulf Shores Lions Club Legacy Project first started in 2018.
The Miracle League Field is tailored specifically for special needs children. The park accommodates wheelchairs, walkers, and other assistive devices while helping prevent injuries.
In its resolution, Orange Beach stated the park will be in the best interests of all of Baldwin County including Orange Beach residents. The project will “enhance the lives of local children and adults facing serious physical and mental disabilities,” city documents state.
Upon completion, the complex on County Rd. 71 will be the only such facility in Baldwin County, although the Miracle League of Pensacola is thriving.
President of Miracle League of Coastal Alabama Bruce White said the donation will be a big boost for the project.
“They said they would match donations from the Baldwin County community,” White said. “That’s pretty strong.”
The Miracle League committee raised about $800,000 by January of 2020 and used it to prepare the site and buy the playground equipment which took about $619,000. The remainder was spent to build the entrance to the site.
“At this point in time, we’ve raised about $950,000 and we’ve got about $60,000 in the bank,” White said. “Our fundraiser will be to get that playground surface installed. We had installed the playground and we were trying to do the surface. At the time we had purchased the surface, but we had to do the installation which is about a $30,000 job. But you’ve got to put in the borders and sidewalk for it before you can do it. Between the two of them it’s about $85,000.”
The Miracle League of Coastal Alabama project total is $2.7 million and includes a fully accessible baseball field, a pavilion with benches, a parking area and concession-restroom facilities.
“We are extremely thankful to the city of Orange Beach for giving us tremendous support with this generous donation. The money raised by this commitment will allow us to install the sidewalk and attachment border around the playground and install the playground surface,” White said.
White added that besides challenging other Baldwin cities to participate in the project, Orange Beach’s generosity has generated additional media attention that should result in an increase in donations going forward.
“We are already seeing that happening. This thing from Orange Beach has been big,’’ White said. “We are getting calls for interviews from local TV stations, and we fully expect other municipalities to step up.’’
Orange Beach City Councilman Jeff Silvers is on the MLCA committee.
“We have been meeting the last three years and going around and writing grants and talking to different businesses. We have already built the playground and now we are moving forward with the facilities and the fields. It’s a pretty cool thing,” Silvers before the Orange Beach vote. “We are challenging a lot of other municipalities in Baldwin County because it’s not just certain children in Orange Beach and Gulf Shores, this is countywide that will be able to participate. Thank you, mayor and council, for the support.”
White said Summerdale has promised $5,000 and Elberta $1,000 since Orange Beach issued its matching funds challenge.
“We have met with Magnolia Springs and they are making a decision. We meet with Robertsdale on November 5,’’ he said. “Fairhope and Foley have completed their budgets but are considering doing something outside the normal budget. We are waiting on dates to make a presentation to each one.
We have not heard from Gulf Shores, Loxley, Silverhill, Bay Minette, Spanish Fort and Daphne.’’
White said when the playground is complete,the next phase will be to build a pavilion adjacent to the playground area that may be partly a “community build,” where businesses and residents help with construction.
Still to go are infrastructure projects, including parking that will cost about $1.2 million, White said. The final phase will be the Miracle League baseball field with a price tag of about $700,000.
Started as a joint project of the Gulf Shores and Orange Beach Lions Clubs, MLCA broke ground on a beautiful 10 acre slate of land just 20 miles north of the Gulf of Mexico in August of 2019. The land was donated by the City of Summerdale.
Summerdale Mayor David Wilson said he and his town council had attempted to bring a Miracle League field to their town even before he was approached by MLCA.
“The Mayor and Town Council in Robertsdale have responded quickly to our every need,’’ White said. “They have been 100 percent behind the project from the start.”
First hatched in 2004, the MLCA gained momentum when Pleasure Island’s two Lions Clubs became involved.
“It started with The Gulf Shores and Orange Beach Lions Clubs,’’ White said. “It was their commitment to the project that allowed us to move forward in the first place.’’
The $2.7 million needed to complete the project can seem overwhelming.
“I know it’s a lot of money. We just take it day by day and step by step,’’ White said.
White said having Ken Gates of Ken Gates Construction onboard has key to getting project construction started and keeping the various committees focused on the steps to completion.
“Ken’s time alone would probably be worth $200,000,’’ White said. “He has kept us focused on what’s next. It can be overwhelming when you go out fundraising for $2.7 million. But if you can break it down into raising money to complete each phase, then it’s more manageable, and it’s easier for people to relate to that when you ask for donations. Once we finish one phase, Ken decides what is the next step and how much it will cost, and we go out and raise that amount.’’
The specialized baseball field and playground surface will feature a cushioned, synthetic, rubberized surface that will eliminate any barriers to wheelchairs, walkers or other mobility devices. The complex will also include handicapped accessible dugouts, restrooms and drinking fountains as well as the boundless playground.
The MLCA has thus far raised $950,000, a majority of it through grants that stopped coming when the Covid-19 pandemic tore through the United States in March of 2020.
“Our fundraising came to a complete stop,’’ White said. “People were not able to host events, and all the grants we applied for were used instead to help with the pandemic response.’’
Since its inception, MLCA has benefitted from people riding motorcycles, running or walking and hitting golf balls. A 2019 Chevy Colorado truck was raffled. People have asked folks to donate to the cause as a birthday gift and as memorials to lost loved ones.
The Snook Foundation donated $100,000, and the Baldwin County Sunset Rotary Club has made the project its primary beneficiary.
Lions Club International awarded MLCA a $100,000 grant and is expected to issue a second grant for that amount in 2022.
IMPACT 100 awarded MLCA a $91,000 grant. Erie Meyer Foundation awarded MLCA $52,000, and the Foley Womens Club and Gulf Shores United Methodist Church have donated $10,000. Businesses such as the Hangout have also made significant donations, and the donation of in-kind services and building supplies has been significant.
Still, the MLCA committee still has to raise $1.9 million of the project’s estimated $2.7 million cost.
“We are building in degrees,’’ White said. “We are taking it in phases. We just want to focus on what our next step is and whatever that is, we’re going to out and raise the funds to complete that part of it.
“We just had the best meeting we’ve ever had from the standpoint of getting things done,’’ he added. “It feels like we’re finally starting to move ahead again.’’
Pictured: (Opposite page) Architectural rendering of the Miracle League Park in Summerdale. (Below) Gulf Shores Lions collected close to $600 in donations and raised awareness about the project at Freedom Fest.

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