She’s performed one miracle and now is conjuring up yet another.
Lorraine McCardle, the founder of the Miracle League of the Ohio Valley, has launched an effort to construct something new for all children in the Upper Ohio Valley. A steak-fry fundraiser is scheduled for Saturday, Feb. 6 inside the St. Vincent School gymnasium, and the event will officially begin her efforts to build an all-inclusive playground adjacent to the Miracle League Field at the J.B. Chambers/I-470 Complex in Elm Grove.
“We have seen a lot of these playgrounds at other Miracle League fields, but at the time I saw one for the first time, we were still trying to raise the funds for the field, so, at that time, I decided I didn’t want to push my luck,” McCardle explained. “But we did leave some land beside our pavilion that would be big enough for the playground we would like to see built.
“And the playground that we would love to see go next to the field would be an all-inclusive facility so every child can use it,” she said. “The reason that’s important is that it means children who do not have special needs would be playing alongside special needs children, and I believe that will be a great thing for all of the children who go there.”
The Miracle League Field, opened in May 2013, cost approximately $1 million to build, and features a special rubberized surface, a pavilion, a concession stand, and a paved parking lot. The league, with between 90-100 participants from throughout the Upper Ohio Valley, conducted both spring and fall leagues in 2015 with multiple games each Saturday and Sunday.
“What we have been told so far is that this playground will cost as much as $260,000, and that price includes all of the equipment and also the padded surface the kids will be running around on,” McCardle reported. “What it does not include is the fencing and the paving that would have to take place before the playground.
“So we are looking at a total cost of about $300,000, but it also means that the company will do all of the installing for the playground,” she said. “That way once the project starts, it will be complete very quickly, and the kids will be able to use it. That’s the moment I can’t wait for.”
McCardle does not have a timeframe in mind right now but is willing to fight just as hard as she did for the field in order to make the new facility a reality.
“The funds have to be raised for it before I will know a solid timeline for the construction and the opening of the playground,” McCardle said. “The Upper Ohio Valley is a great place, and we learned that during the six years we raised the funds for the field. We have wonderful organizations and foundations, and we have many, many generous people in the community.
“And this is just the beginning, and we’re working very hard right now to get the word out to the people of this community,” she continued. “We have a lot of work ahead of us, and we know that, and if there is someone in our community who can help with grant writing, we would really like to hear from that person.”
It took her six years to generate the funds for the Miracle League Field, and McCardle’s efforts led her into a conversation with officials of the Pittsburgh Pirates. In the end, Pirates Charities contributed $250,000 toward the construction of the field, and Pirates players, announcers, and the owner were on hand for the grand opening.
“I believe we are accomplishing the goals we had when we really got started with raising the funds for the field,” she said. “We just want to do more for all of the children in this community because all children would benefit from this playground. It’s all about offering the same chances for the special needs members of our community, and down the line some of our folks are going to do theatre.
“There’s really nothing we can’t accomplish for these kids, and we all learned that by working so hard to build that field. That was an up-and-down ride that didn’t always make me smile, but we got through those times, and we’ve had two great seasons at the Miracle League field.”
The Miracle League has partnered with the J.B. Chambers YMCA last year and has held football, soccer, cheerleading, and basketball clinics for the special-needs athletes.
“Adam (Shinsky) has been a wonderful partner for the Miracle League, and he has been so creative with many new ideas for our kids,” McCardle said. “Plus, the Elm Grove facility is something special for our special needs kids so I, am definitely pleased with this partnership.
“In the near future we will have an open house at the Chambers YMCA so all of our parents and kids can come see all of the possibilities for new activities for the kids,” she said. “The kids will be able to use some of the fitness machines and the basketball courts, and they will also be able to swim in the pool because the pool is completely ADA complaint.”
In fact, those wishing to attend the steak fry can utilize a special service offered that evening at the Chambers YMCA.
“We will also offer babysitting at the YMCA for any of the parents who are unable to get a sitter for the evening,” McCardle reported. “It will be a fun night for the kids, and well-qualified adults will be there to supervise. There’s a $10 charge for this service, but that’s still a pretty good deal and would let those mothers and fathers join us for the event.
“And we’re going to have a lot of fun with the steak fry, especially since it’s on the day before the Super Bowl,” she said. “And those who choose to attend will have the chance to win a new flat-screen TV, a recliner from Chris Miller Furniture, and many other prizes. Plus, we’ll have one of those photo booths there so people can have a lot of fun with that.
McCardle is hopeful attendance will be impressive for the steak fry and that’s because she’s noticed a change in her community concerning those challenged with special needs.
“I’m not really sure what’s making the attitude change about people with special needs, but it’s definitely happening in our community, and it’s really helping all of us in the Miracle League,” she said. “The more people see what these kids want to do and can do just like everyone else, the more they understand that they want to be involved, too.
“It’s really about the smile on their faces, and once you do, you’re hooked. You’re connected to it then,” McCardle added. “When you see those smiles and see them have a wonderful time, it’s all worth it. No matter how long it takes to raise the funds to build this playground, it will be all worth it, and it will be wonderful.”
(Photos and images provided by Lorraine McCardle)