BARNSTORMERS SPOTLIGHT: Angels in the Outfield
It's the gift that keeps on giving.
Every year since 2009, the Iowa Barnstormers have made it a point to visit the Kiwanis Miracle League and play baseball with some very special kids.
Under the motto "every child deserves a chance to play baseball," the Miracle League was develped by the Des Moines Kiwanis Club in the fall of 2008. The Miracle League consists of children ages five through 15 who have disabilites that prevent them from playing organized sports. They have games in the spring and the fall at the Kiwanis Miracle League ballpark, which is located in downtown Des Moines just west of Principal Park.
In the spring of 2009, Iowa Barnstoremrs head coach John Gregory met with current Kiwanis Miracle League President Jan Burch. "Coach Gregory said he really liked what we were doing and asked if sometime i twould be possible for the team to come down and help out," Burch remembers. "We were thrilled with the idea. We decided to make it an evening event outside of our regular schedule and allow the Barnstormers to buddy up and be our angels in the outfield with our players."
Thus began a love affair between the Barnstormers and Miracle League kids. "The kids, when they saw the Barnstormers players, especially in their uniforms, went bonkers," says Bob Mitchell, a past President and now Treasurer of the League."The kids were grinning from ear to ear. Some of the Barnstormers picked up the players and carried them. Some would take their jerseys off and put them on the kids, with the jersey hagning down to their ankles."
Kiwanis Miracle League Vice President Joyce Byrne says one of the most gratifying aspects of the Barnstormers-Miracle League relationship is the way the kids respond to the players. "The looks on the kids' faces when the Barnstormes walk in here is amazing. When they pick them up and throw them on their shoulders and run around the bases, they just love it."
Another Miracle League Vice President, Tom Pflanz, says the goodwill provided by the Barnstormers' visit is not just special to the kids, but to those who volunteer their time each year. "It's really special to us too because we come to these games each week and we help the kids and see them grow. Some of the kids who come here are severely handicapped. They are just so happy to be here and the Barnstormers being here is just like kicking it up another level."
It's not just the Miracle League kids who get a kick out of this annual event, so do the Barnstormers. Back in 2010, then barnstormer Micah King developed a special relationship with a ten-year-old girl named matty Landwehr of Altoona, which was documented in a Des Moines Register story.
Meanwhile, current Barnstormers defensive standout Javicz Jones has been involved with the Miracle League kids for the past two seasons and loves the event. "The experience is awesome," said Jones. "It's one of those that as a professional athlete we find to be so humbling. it's great to know that part of what we do impacts lives. We always want to inspire someone and this gives us the chance to do that."
This past Thursday night's Mriacle League-Iowa Barnstormes event was made even more special, thanks to a generous contribution on the part of Wellmark Blue Cross Blue Shield. Wellmark presented Kiwanis Miracle League with a check for $1,000, which was earned by the Iowa Barnstormers' mascot Billy the Barnstormer back in April during the Drake Relay's Grand Blue Mile Mascot Race.
The Iowa Barnstormers and the Kiwanis miracle League - a match made in heaven.
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