ATHENS — The Bulldogs threw a little party over at Foley Field today. It wasn’t anything the Diamond Dawgs did, or Kirby Smart’s football team across the street, for that matter. But both teams were involved in celebrating a new partnership for their friends over a Extra Special People.
Foley Field provided a perfect venue a big reveal. At an event called “Brunch of Bases,” Watkinsville-based ESP announced a new partnership with an organization called “Miracle League.” Miracle League is an organization that builds baseball and playground facilities for children with special needs. The two entities have come together with plans to build such a facility somewhere in the Athens-Clarke and Oconee County communities.
On hand for the announcement were Georgia baseball coach Scott Stricklin, former Atlanta Braves player Jeff Francoeur and UGA announcer Chuck Dowdle. Kirby Smart and his wife also are supporters of ESP through the Kirby Smart Foundation.
On site to celebrate the announcement, a “Brunch on the Bases” held at UGA’s Foley Field, were UGA Baseball coach Scott Stricklin, former Braves player and Miracle League supporter Jeff Francoeur and longtime sports reporter and enthusiast Chuck Dowdle.
“ESP is always working to make the lives of children with special needs vibrant and fun, offering summer camps and after-school activities to hundreds of families across Northeast Georgia year-round,” said Laura Whitaker, ESP executive director. “Building a Miracle League field in our community and partnering with a nationwide organization like Miracle League helps fulfill our belief that every kid deserves to play sports and thrive in an accessible space that allows them to gain confidence, improve their physical health and abilities and foster meaningful relationships with their peers.”
ESP aims to create an accessible community where individuals with disabilities and citizens live and play alongside each other in an innovative, fully accessible play and sports space. The entire community will also enjoy a new playground and splash pad at the facility, which is included in the plans if enough funds are raised.
UGA Athletics and Georgia football have a long relationship with ESP. ESP kids come to Georgia football practices every year and former Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray remains a close friend and spokesman for the institution.
ESP and Miracle League have also teamed up to create Camp Hooray in Jackson County. ESP has a 70-acre property in Jackson County on which it intends to create the country’s first universally accessible overnight camp built from the ground up. It’s one of more than 300 groups with which Miracle League is associated. Miracle League promotes the construction of special facilities that meet special-needs children and their families.