By Debby Woodin
A yearlong effort by members of Joplin’s Rotary clubs to construct a ball field and playground for children with special needs will soon see fruition.
The Joplin City Council on Monday approved the use of land at the Joplin Athletic Complex for construction of a Miracle League Field and playground.
Shirley Mutz, president of the Noon Rotary Club, said approval will clear the way for construction to start soon. The field will be named the Will Norton Miracle League Field in memory of the teenager who was killed in the May 2011 Joplin tornado only minutes after leaving his high school graduation.
The cost of the project, $495,185, is to be paid with donations that have come in from Rotarians as a result of the tornado. The fund also includes money donated by KW Cares, which collects contributions from those affiliated with Keller Williams real estate offices. Will Norton’s father, Mark, is a Keller Williams agent.
“Rotary clubs across the nation and from all over the world started sending donations right after the tornado,” Mutz said. A committee made up of members from the Daybreak and Noon clubs in Joplin was established to decide how to use the funds.
Some of the money was given to Rotary members who lost their homes in the tornado to help them pay deductibles on their insurance and other costs, Mutz said. The clubs also agreed to finance the construction of a house by Habitat for Humanity to help a displaced family.
Mutz said Jenny Hocker, with Keller Williams, organized the effort to build the ball field and playground for children with disabilities.
Mutz said there are Miracle Leagues in Kansas, Arkansas and Springfield that could bring children for games and activities at the field in addition to Joplin area children.
“To have the Rotary clubs get together and build a whole park exclusively for children with disabilities is a huge blessing for Joplin,” said Mayor Melodee Colbert-Kean. “It is very much needed.”
She said she would like to see play equipment for disabled children installed by the city in other parks as well. “I want all kids to be able to go to all of our parks and be able to play,” she said.
Joplin’s parks director, Chris Cotten, said the field will be built next to Wendell Redden Stadium.
Equipment for the playground is to include two slides, and a number of panels with handholds, periscopes, storefronts and bells. Also planned are swings with harnesses, belts and bucket seats to accommodate a variety of special needs, and sensory play swings such as a wheelchair glider.
THE MIRACLE LEAGUE ball field and playground surfaces will be rubber-coated for the safety of the children.