Program Report: George Habel and Benjy Capps – Miracle League of the Triangle

Everyone deserves a chance to play baseball

To the 100 or so die-hard Rotarians who chose to attend Monday’s meeting rather than gaze upon the eclipse, Capitol Sports Vice President George Habel expressed his thanks for the support our club has given. First, for “Take a Kid to a Ballgame,” which – spearheaded by a generous donation from fellow Rotarian Michael Goodmon and Capitol Broadcasting, and complemented by club donations – allowed us to treat 66 youth to a Durham Bulls home game, complete with hotdogs and Bulls baseball caps.

Second, George conveyed his gratitude to the club for choosing to move our weekly meetings to the DBAP. “It was a first-time job-related task when I had to hire a chef for the Bulls,” George said. “And now, with Rotary’s commitment to Monday luncheons, I’ve had to hire a sous chef!” While the Convention Center (and the Marriott before that) have certainly worked hard to be accommodating, our move to the ballpark emphasizes our growing, progressive club’s efforts to represent and support the Durham community even more strongly. Reminder – our Monday, September 11 meeting will be held at the DBAP!

The project George introduced to the club on Monday likewise underscores the ongoing commitment that the Durham Bulls, Capitol Broadcasting, and the Goodmon family have made to Durham. Capitol Broadcasting has made a $400,000 challenge pledge toward a projected fundraising goal of $1.5 million to build a new ballpark in Durham – not for a minor league team, but for a true “dream team” that has already come to fruition for over 500 special needs children in Wake County. The Miracle League of the Triangle is expanding into Durham, with the vision that “everyone deserves a chance to play baseball.”

George said bluntly, “Let me be direct: I need your money!” Funds will go to construct a baseball field, slated to be completed in 2018, specially equipped to be wheelchair, walker, and crutches-friendly, and complete with bleachers and other ballpark amenities. It will be located catty-corner from the DBAP, on the southern side of Hwy. 147 on a site owned by the Durham Housing Authority. “It will be visible and accessible to all,” George says. “We want to make it easy for our players and their families to get there and park, and to give Durham Bulls ballplayers and staff, as well as the community at large, the opportunity to volunteer and help the kids – not to mention spectators who want to cheer us on.”

George then introduced Benjy Capps, Executive Director, The Miracle League of the Triangle, Inc., a 501(c)(3) organization with the mission of creating positive life experiences for children and adults with special needs, as well as for their families.

The Miracle League of the Triangle, founded in 2006, was the first league in NC. Its first facility was constructed in Cary soon thereafter, with another opening near Wakefield in Raleigh in 2014. Currently they serve over 500 youth each year, with a goal of increasing that to over 1,000 with the opening of the Durham park. There are two eight-week seasons, one in spring and one in fall, and teams are limited to no more than 15 players. Teams are open to any child or adult with special needs, ages five and older, and offers a safe, encouraging environment in which to learn and play the game of baseball.

Volunteers provide one-on-one assistance to the teams. Each player chooses his or her own nickname as well as a theme song, which is played as they walk to the plate for their turn at bat. Every player bats and scores one run during the two-inning game. Each game opens with the National Anthem, and “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” is sung between innings. Benjy says with a smile, “And somehow it happens that every game ends in a tie, so everyone wins. It’s truly a miracle!”

He adds sincerely, “If you want to have a life-changing experience, I suggest you just come to one game as a volunteer or even a spectator.” He shared a video entitled “Moments of Joy” which was truly inspiring. Over 8,000 volunteers have had life-changing experiences since the League’s inception, a net that will be cast even wider when the Durham facility is ready for play.

More information can be found at www.MiracleLeagueoftheTriangle.com.

Submitted by Carver Weaver

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