An Interview with Diane Alford, National Executive Director of The Miracle League
28 Feb, 2010By: Trade and Industry Development Team
Years in industry:
The Miracle League really started with Michael, a child with a disability from Rockdale County, Georgia, who spent countless practices and games cheering on his five-year old brother. In 1997, one of Rockdale Youth Baseball Association's coaches, Eddie Bagwell, invited Michael to play on their team, and soon after, The Miracle League was born. Soon, we learned that 50,000-plus children in Metro Atlanta are disabled to a degree that keeps them from participating in team sports. That's when the dream of building a unique baseball complex for these special children came to life.
My brother, Dean Alford, was one of the founders of The Miracle League, and I've been with the League since we opened the first Miracle League facility in the spring of 2000. We opened with more than 100 players on our roster. This year, our 10th anniversary, we will serve more than 200,000 children and young adults.
What is the mission of your organization?
When we started, there was no organization we could model ourselves after, so we adapted the game to suit our players' needs and we settled on three primary goals:
To provide opportunities for children with disabilities to play Miracle League baseball, regardless of their abilities.
To promote community support and sponsorship of Miracle Leagues.
To promote the construction of special facilities that meet the unique needs of Miracle League players and their families.
Nationally, how many participants do you have?
We have 235 Miracle Leagues across the continent, including Leagues in Puerto Rico and Canada, and more than 200,000 athletes.
How many events are held each year?
Our leagues play two eight-week seasons a year: one spring and the other fall.
In what regions/locations are they held?
We have Miracle League organizations in 46 states across the country, with more Leagues starting all the time.
As an organization, what do you look for in a location?
Miracle League facilities are unique, which is why it's so important that we continue to promote the construction of these facilities. Originally, Miracle League teams played on the same grass fields as other teams, which presented potential safety hazards for players in wheelchairs or walkers. So, with the help of community volunteers and companies, we designed a complex that includes a custom-designed field with a cushioned rubberized turf to help prevent injuries, wheelchair accessible dugouts, and a completely flat surface to eliminate any barriers to wheelchair-bound or visually impaired players.
From an event management standpoint, what is the most challenging aspect of your job?
It can be a challenge to help educate society about the importance of giving all children the opportunity to play baseball. If we could get every community out to see a Miracle League game, they would be convinced right away.
What is the most rewarding aspect of your job?
Seeing the smile of a child doing something he or she didn't dream they could do: picking up a bat, hitting the ball and circling the bases to score a run for his/her team. That's the best part.
What is your biggest challenge in organizing your organization's events?
The Miracle League and all of our facilities are completely supported entirely by donations, grants and sponsorships, so fundraising is definitely the biggest challenge.
Please describe how you feel your knowledge, skills and experience have contributed to the success of the sports events in which you are involved.
There are experiences that change the way we look at life, the way we pursue our dreams, and the way we live our lives. Miracle league is one of these experiences.