The Miracle League – A Parent’s Champion of Hope, Belonging and Acceptance
By Detra Alton,
As the announcer calls the next batter’s name the crowd begins to clap and cheer, and the batter’s choice of walkup music begins to play in the background as she approaches the plate. She is a little hesitant at first as loud sounds can sometimes be a sensory barrier for her, but the volunteer buddy reassures her that all is well while giving her a little nudge towards the plate. The volunteer buddy takes a second to ensure the tee is the right height and that the batter is properly holding the bat and takes a step back, still instructing and encouraging the batter. The batter swings, hitting the ball off the tee and the crowd goes wild! The volunteer buddy gently grabs the athlete by the hand, looks her in the eyes and says to the athlete “You did it! Now let’s run to first base!” Her parents are excitedly cheering, overcome with emotions of joy and happiness accompanied with a few tears. Through the eyes of a proud parent, this is only a small glimpse into what game day looks like with the Miracle League at the YMCA of Greater Houston.
The Miracle League at the YMCA of Greater Houston provides children and adults with disabilities the opportunity to play sports and participate in learning opportunities in a safe, fun atmosphere. The YMCA prides itself on being one of the few organizations within the Houston area that has implemented adaptive sports programming, as they seek to remove limits and reimagine opportunities for all.
As a parent of a differently abled child, I have always strived for my child to have the same experiences as her peers, no matter what. Every parent wants to be able to have the opportunity, at least once, to cheer for their child from the sidelines in any extracurricular activity or for their child to get the experience of being a part of a team. Having a child on the Autism Spectrum has created barriers in our everyday life, including finding youth activities to safely participate in. There is a shortage of youth sports organizations that can (or are willing to) accommodate the needed support for differently abled individuals. Sometimes these organizations lack the understanding of barriers which unknowingly cause judgement, stares and ostracizing from the other parents, as well as the team. It can be a lonely experience.
Over the year I have personally witnessed how the Miracle League with the YMCA of Greater Houston creates the needed space and opportunity for individuals of all abilities to play baseball. Not only does the league provide an ideal atmosphere for its athletes, it is a parent’s champion of hope, belonging and acceptance. It’s a sigh of relief. A relief of belonging to a community of YMCA staff, caring volunteers and relatable parents that accept your athlete for who they are. They understand when a player doesn’t want to wear the “itchy” jersey, when the player wants to dance instead of batting, when the player wants to change his/her name for the day or even if the player wants to sit in the dugout, because today is just not a good day. All of this is perfectly fine in the Miracle League, because the community understands to adjust the game to the athlete’s needs and not adjust the athlete.
The league introduced my athlete to a sport, which we not had played before, and allowed us to work on different motor skills; it is secretly a form of therapy. I am amazed at how she has grown from not wanting to hit the ball, to hitting the ball off the tee and now having the ball pitched. This is such a win for our family, as we have proven that barriers can be broken when you are part of an organization that’s made specifically for you – a place of acceptance.
I am grateful for the opportunity that the YMCA has created for my child through the Miracle League. This program gives me hope that more organizations will follow in the footsteps of the YMCA and create more safe spaces for your child to participate in activities with zero boundaries.