SALT LAKE COUNTY, Utah -- This time of year, thousands of kids participate in little league sports--including children who play in adaptive leagues right here in Salt Lake County.
The Miracle League is an adaptive sports league for children with disabilities, and this summer they’ll add soccer to their offerings.
The children playing in the league have a variety of different disabilities and illnesses, but this field is one that's evenly played--meaning everyone on it gets a shot at some glory.
“It's really a good environment because everyone seems to have… everyone's equal,” said 15-year-old Jacob Hansen, who is a baseball player in the Miracle League.
Each spring and fall, kids all over the country lace up their cleats for little league. A few years ago, Salt Lake County Parks and Recreation, along with Shriners Hospital, started the Miracle League to include more kids than ever before.
“Whether it's cerebral palsy, spina bifida, they’re an amputee, they have autism, whatever their special need is that doesn't allow them to play baseball on a traditional team--they can come Saturdays in the fall and in the spring and play baseball just like any other kid,” said Laura Lewis, who is a recreation therapist.
The league has grown quite a bit over the years, with more volunteers and players coming out. Baseball has been quite successful here on this special diamond, which has no dirt, grass, or elevated bases in order to make it easier for children who are using wheelchairs and walkers to feel like professional athletes.
"The number one secret is timing, timing is key when you're batting,” Hansen said.
Ashely McClellan, whose son plays in the Miracle League, said it brings their family joy.
“It makes me really happy and excited that he can do something that he likes to do that he could be good at something that he likes,” she said.
The newest addition to the league will be power soccer, and all players, whether they can walk or not, will play in special powered chairs donated and designed by Shriners Hospital.
“What these chairs do, once you're in a chair, whether it's you, whether it's me, whether it's anyone of these kids out here, you're on the same level playing field,” said Salt Lake County adaptive recreation coordinator Suzie Schroer.
Ashley’s son, Weston, was born with cystic fibrosis and DiGeorge syndrome.
“So he can't bend his fingers, or pick things up, he can't write, he can't spell, he can't read, he can't eat very well,” McClellan said.
But on this sunny Saturday, Weston found something he could do.
“It's awesome!" he said of the powered chair that will allow him to play soccer.
You don't have to have a disability or have a child with a disability to get involved with Miracle League. For more information, click here.