Mike Flavelle is a Community Service Coordinator for the Northampton County Juvenile Probation Department. He wrote this article entitled A Special Season which will appear in a future edition of a Pennsylvania Juvenile Probation magazine. We were so impressed by this story we wanted to be sure to share it with everyone in the MLNC community. We thank Mike and his supervisor for giving us permission to share this wonderful story.
The day was Saturday, April 27, 2013. I stepped out of my car not fully knowing what lied ahead. I was a little nervous, but I must admit I was also very excited. As I remember it, it was a clear crisp April day. I proceeded to enter a place I have never been before. You see, on this day, we (Northampton County Juvenile Probation Community Service Department) agreed to be a sponsor for a Miracle League team. For those of you that have never heard of the Miracle League, the Miracle League is a non-profit organization that provides an opportunity for children and adults with disabilities to play baseball at a special facility that meets the unique needs of the players and their families. By sponsoring a Miracle League team, it meant that we agreed to provide a volunteer, “buddy,” to assist each special needs individual throughout the game and season; help them in the batter’s box; be with them as they go around the bases; as well as be with the player out in the field when they are not batting. The Spring season consisted of ten games (on Saturdays). Our team consisted of fifteen players. The team name was the “METS.” I grew up watching and loving the METS professional baseball team. This had to be a positive omen!
I was nervous for a couple of reasons. I was responsible to have fifteen juveniles appear and behave appropriately. I cringe on days when I have just five individuals to supervise on work crews. Today I was having three times this amount. I must admit, I did try to stack the deck a little bit with individuals I knew who had some decent communication skills, and who were involved with outside activities. Without turning this article into a Steven King length novel, the day ended perfectly. My fifteen volunteers appeared, and each one of them did a super job being a “buddy” to their assigned special needs individual.
To me, the whole season was a highlight. I have embedded in my brain the faces of the players, their parents, and our volunteers. The season was a great success! There were only one-two occasions when I was short a player over this time period. Considering this time period involved high school proms, graduations and family vacations, I can live with this percentage. There was never a behavioral issue at any time. The juveniles really seemed to enjoy their time being a “buddy.” So did I!
If I must pick out a few highlights, I would pick: 1) seeing the faces of the special needs players light up as their “buddy” returned the following week. Thus, in turn, the player’s reaction put a smile on the volunteer’s face, 2) having a volunteer being excited (and proud) because he taught his “buddy” to throw a ball, 3) having another volunteer being emotionally touched due to a parent walking over to him and thanking him for working with their son, 4) I remember this special needs individual hitting a home run during a particular game, he flipped his bat while in the batter box like Barry Bonds and he trotted around the bases with his index finger pointing high in the air toward his home run area. Then, upon reaching home plate, he jumped in the air to land on the base and then he proceeded to flap his jersey up and down, while having the biggest smile on his face (I was also remembering at this time, that this individual would probably never have had this opportunity if it wasn’t for the Miracle League), 5) last but not least, having numerous adults walking over to me and stating how terrific our group of kids have been throughout the season.
I would encourage any probation office with a Miracle League organization in their area to partner up with them. The rewards are endless! To see more information on our specific Miracle League organization please check out the following website: www.miracleleagueofnc.org