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The Jeff Hanson Miracle Field will no longer be ready by July and ground has not yet broken at the site. Woodbury Rotary is still in need of donations and labor to construct the field. Staff photo by Riham Feshir

Miracle field will not be ready this summer

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A field for children with disabilities to play baseball was one step closer to reality when it hit a bump in the long road it's been on for the past four years.

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The Jeff Hanson Miracle Field was scheduled to be ready for the new East Metro Miracle League by July, but contractors who committed time, material and labor have backed out and others are no longer in business, Rotary president Cork Wicker said.

The Woodbury Rotary Club took on the task of raising money to help cover the costs of the field, while partnering with the Miracle League of Minnesota. Rotary's $130,000 goal has been met, but some of the biggest materials are still needed to finish the project.

Wicker said the tough economy is to blame for those who can no longer provide a tanker truck, blocks and concrete -- all adding up to an $85,000 shortfall.

"Some of those contractors who made those commitment don't exist anymore and some can't keep the commitment," Wicker said.

Many east metro residents had already signed up to play in the league beginning July.

"It's depressing," said Kelly Madsen, whose son Bryce was signed up to play in Woodbury this year. "East Ridge, they have how many fields? And Bielenberg, they have how many fields? Kids play every day and parents don't think about it.

"We're a very wealthy town and it just seems wrong that the kids who also need it and need that boost of self esteem, they can't do it."

Bryce, who suffers from Spinal Muscular Atrophy, a rare disease characterized by muscle atrophy and loss of motor function, was excited to play in the Miracle League this summer, Madsen said.

The league will still start this July with 20 players utilizing one of East Ridge's softball fields, city of Woodbury recreation specialist Michelle Okada said.

"We're still going to make the best of it and kids will have fun with the league participation and the game," she said.

But Madsen said Bryce's condition will not allow him to play baseball unless the games take place on a specialized field.

"There are other repercussions of not having this smooth surface," she added.

The 9-year-old was the first in the world to have a combination of the two surgeries spinal fusion and Vertical Expandable Prosthetic Titanium Rib (VEPTR), which helped expand his lung capacity.

"He's just got a lot of hardware in his body," Madsen said.

Bryce moves around in a wheelchair, which is why a cushioned synthetic turf that accommodates wheelchairs is necessary "... so he could go full speed, so I wouldn't have to worry about him smashing into one of the bases and tipping his chair on the side," Madsen said.

The Madsens used to travel to Blaine for the north metro Miracle League every summer and were hoping to shrink the distance this summer and get more family and friends out to watch Bryce play.

"Bryce has so many friends who play baseball and these kids are just great. They want to see Bryce succeed and they want to see him play, they want to be his buddy.

"I just think that's priceless really, for young children to be able to interact on an even playing field for the first time," Madsen said.

Wicker said he'll continue working with a few more potential contractors and there is a possibility the field will be ready for the league by this fall.

"I really think we're going to get it done this year," he said.

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Riham Feshir
Riham Feshir is a reporter and photographer for the Woodbury Bulletin. Her coverage includes Woodbury City Hall, Washington County Board of Commissioners and business news.  Follow Riham on Twitter @RihamFeshir for the latest updates.
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