Miracle League Los Angeles is one chapter of over 275 across five countries which serve to provide opportunities and support for children with disabilities through baseball.
After visiting a Georgia chapter, Jeremy McGovern wanted to volunteer with his local Miracle League, but realized that there was no L.A. chapter. McGovern now serves as the Director of Miracle League Los Angeles which provides recreation and relief to children with special needs.
“It’s important for them to be able to go and play baseball like everybody else, which is something that everybody else takes for granted,” McGovern said.
For many of these children, their lives are so filled with therapy appointments and medical professionals that they can become accustomed to working with adults. Miracle League makes it possible for them to interact with other kids through baseball, McGovern said.
Miracle League also employs a “Buddy program” where each player is paired with an able-bodied volunteer from a local team or high school which enables these kids and their families to interact with people that they may not have otherwise.
“It’s important for them to be able to socialize with other kids in a way that not related to their disabilities,” McGovern said.
Oscar Madrigal, a board member and parent of two players, said that many families who have children with special needs are often not openly welcomed at many programs or places, which is why Miracle League specializes in inclusion to make each practice and game a safe space.
“If we talk about inclusion, we can’t just think about specific things or people,” Madrigal said. “We need to really think about inclusion as a whole part of our society.”
Miracle League has been dedicated to inclusion since its inception and aims to include children with special needs no matter their circumstances.
Their field is flat, made of rubber and latex free which makes it accessible to those with mobile disabilities, physical impairments and allergies.
Miracle League receives funding from several sources including the LA84 Foundation, which focuses on increasing equal access to sports for all.
“What’s really great about Miracle League is that I think of it as a service for my kids who have autism, but we have kids who don’t have a specific developmental disability but might have a physical impairment and the way we play the game is to include them as well,” said Madrigal, whose two sons have been playing for Miracle League for about 3 1/2 years now.
Volunteer Alyssa Baron describes Miracle League as something that she looks forward to every year. She said that the end of each season is bittersweet but her time at the organization has been wonderful.
“It’s just one of the happiest places,” Baron said. “It really is just an opportunity for kids to be able to play.”
McGovern said that the program’s success and impact is reflected in the 90% of players who return every year.
He’s seen this program have lasting impacts on some of his players. He said he’s seen players who begin their first season shy and introverted end up loving the game, running the bases on their own.
“They come out of the world they’ve hidden in,” McGovern said. “I hope that they feel confident and feel better about themselves and that they don’t feel that the thing that makes them different is the most important thing about them.”
While parents like Madrigal are very thankful their children can participate in a program like Miracle League, Madrigal emphasizes that access to recreation entertainment should be available and inclusive to all.
“It’s important to have these kinds of things in the community so that people know that there is access for everyone,” Madrigal said. “It should be something that all communities should be striving for.”