MIRACLE PARK: A Place For All Kids To Play

A new park is coming to the Des Moines metro, but this isn’t your typical place to play ball.

The Des Moines Kiwanis club opened the first Miracle League Park in Iowa nearly five years ago. It’s located downtown by Principal Park and serves more than 200 kids with special needs. This month, construction started on the state’s second Miracle League Park, and this one has an extra component.

The Lust kids like to play ball. Mom Kerry Lust asks her son Brandon, “Do you like to hit the ball?” He replies, “Fun hit.”

But, it’s difficult for the 5 year-old to play on a typical league. Mrs. Lust says, “He has Autism, so he struggles with speech, communication and he has trouble with social skills. And, he has some motor skills problems with catching and throwing.”

Brandon joined the Des Moines Miracle League this season. Buddies help each player during the game and the custom field is flat and free of obstacles. Kerry says, “Miracle League will give him an opportunity where he can play ball just like all the typical kids.”

But, about 240 kids already play on the Des Moines Miracle League and there are plenty more families like the Lusts looking for a place to play closer to home.

Ankeny Kiwanis Club and Steering Committee Member Kerry Walter-Ashby says, “There’s just a huge need throughout Ankeny. About 800 kids have registered with a form of disability. And, when you broaden that out through central Iowa, the number gets up to 3,100 to 3,500 kids with special needs.”

A Miracle League Steering Committee in Ankeny started raising $1.2 million in 2011. The Kiwanis Club and city broke ground last fall, and Seamus Excavating started clearing the land last week. Walter-Ashby says, “It’s a community wide initiative and anybody who would like to participate we will find a way to bring everybody together.”

Plans also include a playground. This one will be all inclusive, so kids of all abilities can play together. Walter-Ashby says, “For example, there will be a component called a sway glider. The first glider that allows kids in wheelchairs to wheel the wheelchair right up into the apparatus and strap themselves in, ride the ride, and kids without mobility issues can push the glider and play alongside with other kids.”

The playground will also feature a sensory wall, swings and components kids of all ages and abilities can enjoy. Kerry says, “It will be great because all three of them can play together.

The group is close to its goal through pledges, but it still needs more cash to start the all-inclusive playground. You can help by donating or by voting. The group is in the running for $25,000 worth of playground equipment through a Facebook contest. You can vote daily through June 15th. Click here to vote and for more information.

Organizers say the field should be finished by fall. They hope to start signing up players this summer.

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