If you ask her dad, Dacie Householder has always been a baseball fan. But watching baseball on television was as close as she could get. That is, until her parents found Miracle League DFW.
"My wife found it and kind of insisted we try it out,” Chad Householder said.
Dacie has cerebral palsy. She is non-verbal and mostly confined to a wheelchair. But on the rubberized field at Randol Mill Park in Arlington that serves as home for Miracle League DFW, she offers a ready smile as her dad wheels her around the bases.
What Chad Householder's wife insisted they try, was a field where children of all abilities can show America's pastime belongs to them too. But as the parent of a child with cerebral palsy, he had his worries.
"I thought other kids they're going to laugh at her, they're going to give her a hard time. That she wasn’t going to like it, that we would just be wasting our time."
His fears were unfounded. And the proof was in Dacie’s smile.
Since its inception in 2004, hundreds of children and adults with varying degrees of developmental, physical, or intellectual disabilities have been able to call this field of dreams their own. Each participant is paired with a “buddy” who helps them in all aspects of the game. Rules are minimal, everyone gets their turns at the plate.
"The only rule out here is to have fun,” Householder said. “All other rules are gone. Have fun. Enjoy it. And smile."
"With some people we spend a lot of time reassuring them that it's going to be OK,” said Grace Whetstone, Miracle League DFW executive director.
Whetstone said parents often have concerns their child might be too disabled, too fragile to enjoy this. But this is a league with no rules, no keeping score. Twenty teams with nearly 300 participants are arranged by age and ability, offering everyone a chance to walk or roll onto their own field of dreams.
"A lot of parents are just hesitant. They're nervous, they're scared, they've got anxiety. They're nervous for their players. Are they going to be accepted. You listen. And then you reassure them that this league is really for everyone, regardless."
And in addition to the joy the participants find on the field, parents will tell you there is one other important benefit here - parents sharing this journey learning that in the challenges of raising a child with disabilities that there are other parents just like them.
"It shows that you're not alone,” Householder said. “There's other families out here who are like you. We all want what is best for our kids. And we support each other. Whatever we need, we're there for each other."
So the advice from one parent to another is give it a try. Take a chance on this unique baseball league and see the benefit for your child and for yourself. Or perhaps consider becoming one of the hundreds of volunteer “buddies” that the league needs each year.
"Every day you're just reminded and every day you see families that you impact,” said Whetstone. “The smiles and the love for baseball and just being able for kids to go out there and be themselves."
"So it's more than just baseball."
Much more than baseball. Some might even call it…a miracle.
For more information visit www.miracleleaguedfw.com