NJ kids with special needs get to play ball thanks to this league
HAMILTON (Mercer) — It's an idea that can't fail, and it's for a good cause. Now the only things organizers hope will improve in its second year are the funds raised ... and the weather.
Then again, maybe rain was appropriate for the first-ever "Thunder on the Road" event run by the Miracle League of Mercer County. For close to 15 years, the nonprofit has been giving area kids with special needs the chance to play baseball, and for about the last five or so, the Trenton Thunder — Double-A minor league affiliate of the New York Yankees — has been assisting in that goal.
Last year, the Miracle League's All-Star Game raised $14,000, driven by the appearances of the Thunder players and staff. With the franchise on board again for the 2019 edition, Miracle League Executive Director Dan Sczweck hopes that the final fundraising figure will approach $20,000.
Looking back on the league's New Jersey origins, with just four teams, Sczweck said money is needed now more than ever to support an organization that regularly serves more than 100 participants, drawing not only from Mercer County, but also from Burlington County, the greater Freehold area, and Bucks County in Pennsylvania.
Those kids get the chance to play both spring and fall seasons, and take advantage of an array of coaching programs.
"The more exposure we get, the more kids that we have join the league, the more need there is for even more programming, and more supplies, and more equipment, and obviously more financial support," Sczweck said.
Proof of the Miracle League's inclusive, celebratory nature actually came during last year's All-Star Game, when rain forced players off the field ... but none of the families left, choosing instead to dance in the rain and enjoy each other's company for the remainder of the night.
"It's been such an amazing experience in seeing all the happy kids, that these families connect with other families and their local networks," Sczweck said.
The 2019 game will be held at the Hamilton Area YMCA Sawmill Sports Complex on Wednesday, Aug. 7. Gates open at 5:30 p.m., with a $5 suggested donation entry fee, and the game will begin at 6:15. For those who can't attend, the game will be broadcast on Facebook Live. Anyone who would like to donate more can click here.
Patrick Lavery is Senior Producer of Morning News and Special Programming for New Jersey 101.5, and is lead reporter and substitute anchor for "New Jersey's First News." Follow him on Twitter @plavery1015 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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