Eight-year-old Riley Erickson is usually wheelchair-bound, so playing with her 11-year-old brother is challenging, their mother Vicki Stohl said. At the Miracle Field in Olsen Park, she can play alongside him.
Brother and sister are able to play side by side on the Miracle Playground, the largest wheelchair-accessible playground in the state. When Erickson participates in her weekend baseball game on the facility’s wheelchair-accessible field, her brother, Korin Erickson, can watch or volunteer.
When the Miracle League of Wilmington held its annual Miracles in Motion Run, Walk and Roll 5k Feb. 28, the duo made an unbeatable team, with Korin Erickson pushing his sister’s stroller to win the 1-mile fun run.
Nearly 200 participants raced through Olsen Park, finishing with a lap around the baseball diamond. The field was designed to give children and adults with special needs the opportunity to play in a baseball game every weekend.
Stohl said her daughter likes playing outside and the Miracle Field offers a safe place for her to do that.
“Without this field, she wouldn’t be able to play any sports,” Stohl said. “There wouldn’t be anything else in town these kids could do. The surface itself is just so much more safe. It’s spongy, so the kids who are in walkers can push off. It’s good for the sensory part and it’s safe when they fall.”
Soon after the Erickson siblings finished the fun run, the 5k participants began to cross the finish line. Thom Porter won with a final time of 20:50. Elizabeth Hinshaw, the first woman to finish, was not far behind at 22:05.
Despite air temperatures in the low 30s, participants remained near the finish line after crossing, keeping up a constant cheer for those nearing the end of the race.
“If the weather was warmer there would have been more people out today,” Stohl said. “But it’s still the die-hard people who support the field. … It’s such a great thing for our community.”
Members of the title sponsor group, the Pink Ladies, were easy to spot with their fluffy pink wigs. The Pink Ladies, Miracle League Executive Director Jennifer Bell explained, are a nonprofit group of triathletes dedicated to supporting local charities.
With donations from sponsors such as the Pink Ladies along with registration fees, Bell said she expects the event to raise almost $10,000 for the Miracle League. The money will go toward purchasing new balls, bats, uniforms, helmets and other equipment for the upcoming baseball season, which starts Saturday, March 7.
The fundraiser helps sustain the baseball league, Stohl said, and she sees the importance of the league in the faces of the children and adults who participate, especially fifth grader Tyler Gwiazdowski.
Gwiazdowski functions on a normal cognitive level, she said, but must use a cane because he has cerebral palsy. He was never able to participate in sports with his peers until the Miracle Field was built.
“He says, ‘I can’t wait for baseball season to start,’” she said. “He doesn’t care that some of the other kids aren’t on the same intellectual level. He’s beaming the whole entire time, the biggest smile you’ve ever seen on someone’s face.”