Miracle League Makes Major Impact on Family
My son Matthew is a special needs child who started playing in the YMCA North Miracle League in 2011 when he was 8 years old. He participates in all sessions of Miracle League: fall, spring, and summer. Miracle League has developed a love of baseball in Matthew that includes all sports now, but he does love the Milwaukee Brewers! Matthew is an outgoing, happy, and friendly child who brings happiness to many people. YMCA Miracle League Baseball has provided an opportunity for children with special needs to participate, learn, and develop a love for sports just like regular kids have the opportunity in public/private schools.
At 3 years old Matthew was diagnosed with a rare metabolic disorder, GAMT deficiency. He had severe physical and mental delays, as well as very low muscle tone. Through the perseverance of a research doctor at the Genetic Research Center (Waisman Center) at the University of Wisconsin Health in Madison, Matthew received the first successful treatment of his disorder. His treatment is done with medical supplements given to him through a gastrointestinal tube (G-tube) in his stomach. Today, most people wouldn’t even know he has a rare metabolic disorder.
Miracle League has provided a positive platform and wonderful support from coaches, volunteers, and community members for Matthew and our family to enjoy the sport of baseball throughout most of the year. His dad and his sister Sarah and I love attending the games to cheer him and his teammates on. Matthew has made many friends, including peers, coaches, and volunteers throughout his time at Miracle League. Matthew continues to enjoy it immensely and will continue participating in the Miracle League Program throughout his growing years.
My best memories of Miracle League are when Matthew sees his familiar friends and yells their names when they show up for practices and games. He also gets excited and yells the names of familiar staff and volunteers who have helped coach him over the years. Matthew has developed many meaningful, long-lasting friendships with his peers. We, as his parents, also have developed meaningful and supportive friendships with other parents of special needs children.
Matthew currently participates in other inclusion programs, such as Adaptive Swimming, Basketball For All, Fitness for All, and Adaptive Ski. He has participated in Soccer For All and Happy Hoops in his younger years at the Y North. Meanwhile, his 15-year-old sister Sarah has participated on the YMCA WAVE swim team. Sarah and I like to work out together in the Fitness Center, and we’re looking forward to taking some classes together. For the past 28 years, I have served in the U.S. Army Reserve, and the Y helps me to keep in shape. My husband Bob retired after 30 years in the military. He’s a recent cancer survivor, and we attribute his successful recovery in large part to regularly working out at the Y. Along with spending time at the Y, we enjoy camping and taking family vacations together.
The core values the YMCA is built upon (respect, responsibility, honesty, caring) are the foundation of its programs. The coaches, staff, and volunteers emulate the values and pass them on to program participants. Matthew has received reinforcement of these core values, which make him a better person through every experience and every year at Miracle League. Matthew has developed not only core values, but also social, coaching, and leadership skills. The YMCA Inclusion and Adaptive Sports Program in Onalaska and La Crosse have provided many outstanding opportunities for special needs children to grow, learn, develop skills, and make long-lasting friendships that they would not have experienced otherwise. Thank you so much for the gift of community support of the YMCA to our family!
By Elaine McGarry