OB donates $ 20,000 to the Miracle League of Coastal Alabama
City will also top other Baldwin government donations up to $ 100,000
By John Mullen & Fran Thompson
Orange Beach has pledged $ 20,000 to the Miracle League of Coastal Alabama and has pledged to increase donations from other Baldwin County governments to a total of $ 100,000 on the agenda for the October 5th council meeting.
The total cost of the project, to be built on land donated by the City of Summerdale, is estimated to be approximately $ 2.7 million. Construction of the park is part of the Gulf Shores Lions Club Legacy Project, which was first started in 2018.
The Miracle League Field is specially designed for children with special needs. The park offers space for wheelchairs, walking frames and other aids and at the same time helps to prevent injuries.
In its resolution, Orange Beach stated that the park was in the best interests of all of Baldwin County, including the residents of Orange Beach. The project will “improve the lives of local children and adults with severe physical and mental disabilities,” the city documents say.
When completed, the complex at 71 County Rd will be the only such facility in Baldwin County, although the Miracle League of Pensacola is thriving.
Bruce White, president of the Miracle League of Coastal Alabama, said the donation will give the project a big boost.
“They said they would double up donations from the Baldwin County ward,” White said. “That’s pretty strong.”
The Miracle League committee raised about $ 800,000 through January 2020 and used it to prepare the grounds and purchase the playground equipment, which cost about $ 619,000. The rest was spent to build the entrance to the site.
“At this point we have raised about $ 950,000 and we have about $ 60,000 in the bank,” said White. “Our fundraiser will be to install this playground surface. We had the playground installed and were trying to make the surface. At the time we bought the surface, we had to install it, which costs about $ 30,000. But you have to use the boundaries and the sidewalk for it before you can do it. It’s about $ 85,000 between the two. “
The Miracle League of Coastal Alabama project is valued at $ 2.7 million and includes a fully accessible baseball field, pavilion with benches, parking lot and licensed toilets.
“We are very grateful to the city of Orange Beach for supporting us enormously with this generous donation. The money raised through this commitment will allow us to install the walkway and fortification boundary around the playground and install the playground surface, ”said White.
White added that Orange Beach’s generosity has not only challenged other Baldwin cities to participate in the project, but has also generated additional media attention that should lead to an increase in donations going forward.
“We can see that already. That Orange Beach thing was big, ”White said. “We get invitations to interviews from local TV stations and expect other municipalities to get involved.”
Orange Beach City Councilor Jeff Silvers is on the MLCA committee.
“We’ve met for the past three years and gone around writing grants and talking to different companies. We have already built the playground and now we continue with the facilities and the fields. It’s a pretty cool thing, ”said Silvers before the vote in Orange Beach. “We are challenging many other communities in Baldwin County because not just certain children in Orange Beach and Gulf Shores, but nationwide can participate. Thank you, Mayor and City Council, for your support. “
White said Summerdale has pledged $ 5,000 and Elberta has pledged $ 1,000 since Orange Beach issued its matching fund challenge.
“We met with Magnolia Springs and they are making a decision. We’ll meet Robertsdale on November 5th, ”he said. “Fairhope and Foley have finalized their budgets but are considering doing something outside of their normal budget. We are waiting for appointments to give a presentation to everyone.
We haven’t heard from Gulf Shores, Loxley, Silverhill, Bay Minette, Spanish Fort and Daphne. “
White said when the playground is ready, the next phase will be to build a pavilion next to the playground, which in part can be a “community building,” where businesses and local residents help build it.
There are still infrastructure projects pending, including parking, which will cost about $ 1.2 million, White said. The final stage will be the Miracle League baseball field, priced around $ 700,000.
As a joint project of the Lions Clubs Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, MLCA started the groundbreaking in August 2019 on a beautiful 10 hectare slate land, just 20 miles north of the Gulf of Mexico. The land was donated by the City of Summerdale.
Summerdale Mayor David Wilson said he and his city council tried to bring a Miracle League field to their town even before he was approached by the MLCA.
“The Robertsdale Mayor and Council were quick to respond to all of our needs,” White said. “You are 100 percent behind the project from the start.”
The MLCA was first established in 2004 and gained momentum when the two Pleasure Island Lions clubs joined.
“It started with the Gulf Shores and Orange Beach Lions clubs,” White said. “It was their commitment to the project that enabled 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, ”said White.
White said having Ken Gates of Ken Gates Construction on board was key to getting the project started and keeping the various committees focused on the steps leading up to completion.
“Ken’s time alone would probably be worth $ 200,000,” White said. “He kept us focused on what’s next. It can be overwhelming when you are collecting $ 2.7 million in donations. But if you can split it up to raise money to complete each stage then it’s easier to work with and easier for people to get involved in when you ask for donations. Once we complete a phase, Ken decides what the next step is and how much it will cost and we go ahead and increase that amount. ”
The special baseball field and the playground surface have a padded, synthetic, rubberized surface that removes all obstacles for wheelchairs, walking aids or other mobility aids. The complex also includes shelters suitable for the disabled, toilets and drinking fountains, as well as the limitless playground.
The MLCA has raised $ 950,000 so far, much of it through grants that stopped coming when the Covid-19 pandemic swept through the United States in March 2020.
“Our fundraising came to a complete standstill,” said White. “People were unable to host events and all of the grants we applied for were instead used to help respond to the pandemic.”
Since its inception, MLCA has benefited from people riding, running, or walking motorcycles and hitting golf balls. A 2019 Chevy Colorado truck was raffled. People have asked people to donate to the cause as a birthday present and as a reminder of 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 has awarded MLCA a grant of $ 100,000 and is expected to award a second grant of that amount in 2022.
IMPACT 100 awarded a grant of $ 91,000 to MLCA. The Erie Meyer Foundation has awarded the MLCA $ 52,000, and the Foley Womens Club and Gulf Shores United Methodist Church donated $ 10,000. Companies like the Hangout have also made significant donations, and the donation of in-kind and building materials has been significant.
Still, the MLCA committee has yet to raise $ 1.9 million of the project’s estimated $ 2.7 million.
“We build in degrees,” said White. “We proceed in phases. We just want to focus on what our next step is, and whatever that is, we will raise the funds to complete that part of it.
“We just had the best meeting we ever had when it came to getting things done,” he added. “It feels like we’re finally getting on again.”
Pictured: (opposite page) Architectural representation of the Miracle League Park in Summerdale. (Below) Gulf Shores Lions raised nearly $ 600 in donations and raised awareness of the project at the Freedom Fest.