Extra Special People volunteers and their buddies gather to listen to the University of Georgia’s Redcoat Derbies band perform to open the Be Bold Bash in Athens, Georgia. (Photo/Ryan Cameron, rac86114@uga.edu)

Over the past year, Extra Special People, an organization based in Watkinsville, Georgia provides community support for children and young adults with developmental disabilities, raised $1.7 million to build a fully-accessible baseball field at Harris Shoals Park.

ESP was able to raise the amount thanks to a“really generous community,” ESP executive director Laura Whitaker said. The money came from grants, fundraisers and individual donations.

The fully accessible baseball field is called a Miracle League. According to Miracle League’s Facebook page, the nonprofit “builds rubberized baseball fields and develops baseball leagues for children with special needs worldwide.” There are more than 240 Miracle Leagues across the country, including in Puerto Rico. There are also leagues in Canada and Mexico.

“It was kind of serendipitous. We heard about it and felt like it would be a perfect addition to our recreational programs,” Whitaker said. “So we asked our families if this was something that they would want and they said yes so we started heading in that direction.”

ESP chose Harris Shoals Park for the location of the Miracle League because the park is behind its current facilities.

Gina Elliot, the ESP director of operations, is in charge of overseeing the construction of the Miracle League, and said the baseball field will allow ESP participants to play a sport they may normally not have access to and develop teamwork skills.

Initially, ESP planned to raise close to $1.7 million and now it has the opportunity to raise another $130,000 through a matching grant by an unnamed, Atlanta-based foundation. The grant will allow ESP to provide wish list items such as “the addition of a medical area, an adaptive equipment shed and additional shade,” according to a press release from ESP.

ESP is in the pre-construction phase. An agreement with city council must be finalized before construction can begin, and various testing procedures must be completed before it breaks ground in 2020, Elliot said.

ESP still needs a finalization of the concept drawings, so they still have a lot to do before they can start building.

In the future, Whitaker hopes ESP can establish an endowment fund to provide a reliable source of funding for all the programs the nonprofit runs. The organization will continue to fundraise for camp scholarships and manage programs to keep costs low for families who send their children to camp and afterschool programs.

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