Upstate Tennis Teams Volunteer at Carolina Miracle League

October 24, 2014 at 11:43 am

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Giving back to the community has always been a fundamental attribute associated with USC Upstate student-athletes, and Thursday was no different as the Spartan tennis teams donated nearly two hours of time volunteering at the Carolina Miracle League.

The Carolina Miracle League is where physically and mentally challenged children are paired with able-bodies volunteer “buddies” who assist them in batting, catching, throwing and running. Every child gets a turn at bat and in the outfield and every child crosses home plate.

The point of the game is less about baseball and more about fun. The benefits gained by everyone involved are tremendous. The child’s self-esteem grows, he or she makes friends, becomes less isolated and “just becomes a regular kid, not a kid with a disability.”

“This is a very rewarding experience for me because it’s not something that you get to do very often,” Upstate freshman John Giakoumakis said. “It’s great to see the kids out here having fun, and I’m glad we had the chance to help them have an amazing experience.”

The Miracle League Organization began in Georgia when a boy in a wheelchair showed up to play in a youth baseball game. It was determined that the grassy turf would be very difficult for wheelchairs, walkers and braces to navigate, and bumps and the irregular surface made moving around the field awkward and dangerous. It became evident that conventional baseball fields were inadequate for children with disabilities.

This spawned the idea to build a field with a special surface that was safe and easy to navigate for those with disabilities. A field was designed with a custom synthetic turf and handicapped accessible dugouts, restrooms and drinking fountains. This was the beginning of what is now called The Miracle League.

“This is a great opportunity for our student-athletes to volunteer and help the community here in Spartanburg,” Upstate head coach Oliver Trittenwein said. “I think the unique part of this experience is that the kids actually give something back to our students as well. Watching them play with such energy and emotion is something special. We’re so thankful for the opportunity to participate in such a tremendous event.”

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