Students at Roland-Story Elementary School raised money this fall during their Character Counts week and have donated $438 to Miracle Park, a recreational space that will serve the needs of any special needs student who wants to play on playground equipment.


Inis Grove Park in Ames is the future site of the Ames Miracle Playground and Field.


The $2 million project has brought donations small and large and has inspired giving from a vast range of folks — everyone from school children to organizations and businesses.


Miracle League fields are baseball fields equipped with rubberized turf that’s safe for kids using wheelchairs, walkers or other assistance devices, according to the Miracle League website. That way, children and adults with disabilities and who might not be able to play on a standard baseball field get the chance to give baseball a try along with their able-bodied buddies who assist them.


Jan Burch, who helped found the Miracle League Field in Des Moines 10 years ago, spoke to an audience in July about the joy children get from playing on it.


Burch, who is the governor of the Nebraska-Iowa Kiwanis district, told the club that the Des Moines Miracle League is “the love of my life.”


“What better way to help kids?” she said.


The games at Miracle League fields are different from your regular nine-inning affairs. Instead, the games last only two innings. But everybody hits, and everybody scores, and “everybody claps for everybody,” Burch said. The games always end in a tie.


Her stories about the individual players brought tears to her eyes a few times. There was Molly, in a wheelchair, who was on her way to home plate when the announcer told the Des Moines crowd to cheer for her. Burch said that as they did, Molly, who normally stared at the ground, hair surrounding her face, looked up, beaming.


“Molly was having a great time,” Burch said. “… She has been on that team every year.”


The next year, Molly had graduated to a walker and had a new hairstyle, and she didn’t need as much help.


“That’s the really neat part of all of the stories we have,” Burch said. “(It’s) the progress that we see in these kids just because of this 45-minute experience of playing baseball.”


They even have an adult league in Des Moines, too. Burch talked about Matt, who had turned 21 but wanted to continue playing. His grandmother asked Miracle League to keep letting him play because it was the “most important thing in his life,” Burch said.