COVINGTON - The Newton County Recreation Commission is holding a community meeting Thursday to discuss the creation of a Miracle League to give disabled children the opportunity to play baseball.
Anyone interested in helping with the project is invited to attend the meeting, which will take place at 6 p.m. at Turner Lake Complex, located at 6185 Turner Lake Road.
"This is something that's going to have to be a total community effort to build," Recreation Commission Director Tommy Hailey said. "Hopefully, we are going to have a good response that night. I've gotten a lot of phone calls."
The Miracle League field was initially included in plans for Chimney Park, a park that will be accessible to special-needs children and adults, located behind Newton County Library.
"We didn't want people that had special-needs kids to be disappointed this was not going to happen," Hailey said of why the Recreation Commission took responsibility.
The field was dropped from the Chimney Park plan following conversations with parents of special-needs children, Newton County Special Projects Coordinator Cheryl Delk said.
"As the design developed, we interviewed families with special needs and talked to the Miracle League Foundation. The Foundation and these families agreed that their preference is for the special children to be playing at fields in ball parks with all the other children," Delk said. "Since this project has long been a desire of the rec commission and the county supports the project, the recreation commission is taking the lead on making it happen. The Friends of Newton County Parks very much supports this effort and will be involved in whatever way necessary to help make the field happen in the appropriate place."
Since word has gotten out that the Recreation Commission will be spearheading the project, the phones there have been "ringing off the hook," Hailey said.
"We have a lot of special- needs kids in the community, and the majority are having to go to Conyers to participate in that league. The way the county is growing, we've got the opportunity to go in and build one here ourselves," he said.
Staff from the Miracle League National Headquarters in Conyers will be assisting with the project.
A location has not been selected yet, though Hailey said he would like to build the field at City Pond Park
"It needs to be where (the players) are included instead of excluded, where they can interact with other kids," he said.
If possible, the Recreation Commission would like to build a couple of small ballfields adjacent to the miracle field for the department's 5- to 8-year-old teams, Hailey said.
At this point, it's not clear whether the park will be publicly or privately funded, though Hailey said it will likely be a combination of the two.
Participants in Thursday's meeting will have the chance to sign up to help with the project, and several committees may be formed from that list.
For more information, call the Recreation Commission at 770-786-4373.
Crystal Tatum can be reached at email@example.com.