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WHS alums team up for a 'Miracle'

Closer than ever now, supporters of a baseball field for special needs children are looking to close the funding gap for the unique Woodbury ballpark.

"Just because they have a disability doesn't mean they shouldn't have the same opportunities we have," said Ryan Warner, one of six local businessmen behind an effort to complete fund-raising for Woodbury's Miracle Field.

Their marquee event occurs Sunday, Sept. 11, at Bielenberg Sports Center, where kids activities abound and a popular Twin Cities singer will perform.

Tim Mahoney, a contestant this year in NBC's "The Voice" program, will perform at the event, which runs from 1 to 4 p.m.

Other activities include a petting zoo, open skating at the Bielenberg indoor rink, an open field house, inflatable playground equipment, celebrity signings, face painting, massages and balloon animals.

There will also be a raffle and silent auctions.

Warner expected between 1,000 and 2,000 people to attend the event.

Organizers are looking to clear the final $15,000 funding gap left on the $250,000 project.

Ultimately, the ballpark will provide a location for disabled children and adults to play baseball on a surface that's wheelchair-friendly and provides other special amenities. Warner said that in addition to the Miracle League - a league dedicated to fostering a baseball experience for disabled children - the field will also be used by high school adaptive sports, Special Olympics and pee-wee level leagues.

The fundraising effort was the brainchild of Warner and fellow Woodbury High School graduates DJ Troje, Wade Hanson, Mark Hargis, Tony Huot and Bryan Nelson.

Right away, Warner, who owns a landscaping company, and Troje, owner of a waste pickup service, identified aspects of the project their respective businesses could accomplish in kind. Troje hauled gravel to the ballpark, while Warner helped provide landscaping, gravel work and irrigation help.

Warner estimated the donated help saved the project $15,000.

Four of the businessmen also contributed cash toward the project, bringing it another $16,000 closer as they looked to solve a then-$35,000 funding gap.

Now that stands at $15,000.

Warner expects proceeds from the Sept. 11 event to cover the remainder. If it doesn't, he said he will personally make up the difference. Any surplus funding will go toward ongoing maintenance efforts, he said.

The Sept. 11 event is free, though donations will be accepted.

Mike Longaecker

Mike Longaecker is the regional public safety reporter for RiverTown Multimedia. His coverage area spans St. Croix and Pierce counties. Longaecker served from 2011-2015 as editor of the Woodbury Bulletin. A University of Wisconsin-River Falls graduate, Longaecker previously reported for the Red Wing Republican Eagle and for the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau. You can follow him on Twitter at @Longaecker

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