Chick-fil-A champions Miracle League with $20k donation

:Construction continues of the Miracle League field at City Pond Park. Concession stands and restrooms are currently being built. - Special Photo

:Construction continues of the Miracle League field at City Pond Park. Concession stands and restrooms are currently being built. - Special Photo

COVINGTON -- The Chick-fil-A Foundation has given Miracle League of Newton County a big boost with a $20,000 donation to purchase universally accessible playground equipment.

The donation is the result of the passion of Chris and Amy Giella, owners of the Chick-fil-A in Newton Plaza, who have championed the Miracle League and, through various fundraisers, helped raise approximately $22,000 for the project prior to this corporate donation.

A video about Miracle League of Newton County was aired during the recent Chick-fil-A Leadercast. The Leadercast, through host sites all over the world, broadcasts world-renowned leaders speaking live from the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta. The Covington Chick-fil-A donates proceeds from the local event to Miracle League of Newton County, and this year raised a record $6,200. Because of this partnership, the Chick-fil-A Foundation decided to make its first of what will now be an annual donation. From here on out, during the time for the Leadercast, the foundation will choose an organization to support that has a similar partnership with a Chick-fil-A anywhere in the country. The $20,000 donation to Newton County Miracle League is the first such award.

Chick-fil-A has also supported the Miracle League with Spirit Nights, donating a portion of proceeds from food sales to the cause, as well as calendar sales and other events, said Kristi Ogletree, marketing director of Newton Plaza Chick-fil-A. In addition, Chick-fil-A is one of the local businesses that feeds inmates who are constructing the Miracle League field, which is designed for use by players with disabilities, at City Pond Park.

"We love the Miracle League ... it's the friendship, it's the relationship. It goes a little bit beyond business," she said, adding that employees at the local restaurant are already excited about being buddies with Miracle League players. Buddies assist players with tasks like rounding the bases.

The Giellas have been supporters of Miracle League since its inception, said Miracle League Consultant Tamara Richardson.

"Together they have been involved in this almost from the very beginning when (former Newton recreation director) Tommy (Hailey) and the Recreation Board first started it and a relationship like that is invaluable," she said, adding that Amy Giella is on the Miracle League marketing committee.

In fact, Miracle League of Newton County got more than just a monetary boost from Chick-fil-A; within 10 minutes of the video airing, Richardson said the national Miracle League office reported receiving phone calls and emails about the project. The Leadercast is broadcast all over the nation and in 22 countries, so the project was exposed to potentially hundreds of thousands of people all over the world.

The $20,000 will be used to fund playground equipment that will be accessible to all children and will have features geared to special-needs children. Thus far, $175,000 has been raised for the playground.

Richardson said construction of the field should be completed in late fall or early winter. Landscaping will follow and the hope is that opening day will take place in April 2014.

The Chick-fil-A Foundation is the corporate foundation of Chick-fil-A Inc. A not-for-profit organization, its purpose is to lead the company's commitment to support youth and education in local communities.