The President of the Miracle League of Blaine was interviewed by Taylor Ringold of Minnesota Twins Radio to discuss the needs to replace our field. Brandy spoke about the harsh winters in Minnesota and how they’ve taken their toll on the field and what it will mean to the families and our community to have the field rebuilt.
“We would love to have our field replaced where it’s safe for our kids to play and we would love to be able to offer this to more families. The field we’re hoping to build will be more durable, and currently we’ve raised $45,000 toward our $250,000 goal.” – Brandy Eckman
Emme Kersten, who plays on the Pirates and her mom, Jessica Kersten, were also interviewed. Emme agrees that the Miracle League of Blaine provides a level playing field for all of our players.
“We spent years taking Emme with us to watch her siblings play their sports. When we stumbled upon Miracle League it finally offered her an opportunity to be able to do the exact same thing that her siblings were able to do. Instead of having to be a watcher all of the time, she got to actually be a participant and get the same experience that they got.” – Jessica Kersten
The Blizzard Foundation is happy to announce a partnership with the Miracle League.
The partnership will start in November and will consist of the Minnesota Blizzard stepping away from practice a few times during the winter months to host the Miracle League for a few games.
Brandy Eckman, director for Miracle League of Blaine, talked about what this partnership would mean.
“A partnership with the Minnesota Blizzard will mean that our kids will have the opportunity to play baseball and make friends with other kids who love the game as much as our kids do.”
Like the best partnerships, both sides are gaining from the other. Ryan Burmeister, a Blizzard alum and now a seasoned coach in the program, talked about what this partnership means for the Blizzard.
“This partnership means a lot for the Minnesota Blizzard,” Burmeister said. “The Blizzard program as a whole understands the importance of developing our players to be outstanding citizens, not just outstanding baseball players,” Burmeister continued. “What a great way for our kids to give back to the game of baseball and share in their love for the game with others.”
The mission of the Miracle League is to provide opportunities for children between the ages of 3-21 with disabilities to play Miracle League Baseball. A Miracle League game’s dynamics are tweaked for all to enjoy. Every player bats once each inning and all will have the opportunity to score a run. Games usually last two innings with both teams as winners at the end.
“We are looking forward to the camaraderie between the players,” Eckman continued enthusiastically. “The very generous offer to practice with the Blizzard inside will allow us to continue to play in the winter.”
Adam Barta, owner of the Minnesota Blizzard shared the same enthusiasm as Eckman.
“Our staff went to Lakeville a couple years ago to play with the Miracle League,” Barta said. “What a blast! The enthusiasm and joy for the game was infectious. I wanted to be a part of it again and glad that the Blizzard Foundation has the chance to be a part of something very special.”
The Blizzard Foundation’s mission is to serve and provide opportunity to youth and young adults via scholarship and education to inspire them to be outstanding citizens, students, and athletes.
Jeff Huth, director of the Blizzard Foundation, weighed in on the partnership.
“This partnership encompasses our whole foundation’s mission,” Huth said. “One-hundred percent of our ball players have the ability to be outstanding humans. It is not the foundation’s mission to make the best baseball players in Minnesota, but the best students and citizens in the state, who happen to play baseball.”
The first Miracle League games with the Minnesota Blizzard will take place November 19th at the Vadnais Heights Sports Center. Eckman provided a brief snippet of what we can expect.
“You can expect to see lots of smiles and excitement amongst our Miracle League players and their parents,” Eckman said. “There is something about the game of baseball that lights up these kids and it shows. It truly is the best part of the week for a lot of us!”
The Miracle League of Blaine has partnered with US Bank Stadium and Aramark to volunteer time selling concessions in the new venue. This is a great opportunity to support the Miracle League of Blaine as well as earn money for registration and other Miracle League of Blaine merchandise!
There is no obligation to participate but, if you or your friends and family have interest, please read on.
All events are open to volunteering; Vikings games, concerts, other special events.
Anyone age 16+ is able to volunteer. 18+ required for alcohol sales.
The Miracle League of Blaine will receive a portion of the proceeds from the stand.
$25 for each volunteer be given back to the player/family. This will be in the form of Registration Credits or Miracle League Bucks where you can order all kinds of merchandise!
Basic food & beverage training and background checks are required.
Set-up begins 2-4 hours before event time. Clean up is at the end of the 3rd Quarter for football games.
If you have any interest in this opportunity, please fill out this one-minute survey to help us plan. Space will be limited and may only be restricted to those who participate in the survey.
Event Schedule – Current events are below, more will be added as they are announced.
Vikings vs Packers
Vikings vs Giants
Vikings vs Texans
Vikings vs Lions
Vikings vs Cardinals
Vikings vs Cowboys
Vikings vs Colts
Vikings vs Bears
Sign up list – After our commitment contract is signed, we will communicate the details around the sign-up list. Space will be limited and spots will be filled on a first-come/ first-served basis.
Parking – There will be free offsite parking provided with a shuttle to and from the stadium.
Training – Once we determine our number of volunteers, we will coordinate the required training sessions. Several options should be available.
Forms – Criminal History Disclosure, Background Check Authorization, and Volunteer Acknowledgement forms are required to participate.
Uniform – Black pants, black shoes. Shirt/Apron/Hat will be provided
The PA system was running and the scoreboard was lit up, music was playing, and everyone had a great time. We had some things handed out to each family – key rings from the corporate office, snack packs from the board, and contact information for each board member. You can read the board contact information here.
For the fall season, we are focusing on building the league up. We know that the fall league isn’t as robust as the spring, so please bear with us as we go through this transition. Our plan is to have a big Opening Day ceremony in the spring.
Registration is now open. We know that the system is clunky and has a few issues and we are working on it. This is the registration system that the national office has asked us to use. We are working closely with the software engineer and hope to have the kinks worked out before spring registration. In the meantime, please report any issues you’re having with registration to firstname.lastname@example.org so she can report back to the engineer.
Over the next few months we will be fundraising for the league. Many of our parents have asked why we need to raise funds. We’ve listed a few reasons below:
Insurance for the league runs approximately $2500 per year
Dues to the Miracle League corporate office are $500 per year
Nonprofit filing fee to the IRS was $275
Credit card processing fees on registration is 3% per transaction
Secretary of State filing for incorporation was $90
Minnesota Council of Nonprofits filing fee was $50
Business office needs including business cards, fliers, banners, printing, for recruiting players and sponsors, etc
Jerseys and caps will be $30 per child / coach
We have some great ideas for fundraising and we hope that you’ll all be involved with it. Some of our ideas are:
Selling candy bars outside of Walmart or Cub Foods in Blaine (like Girl Scouts with cookies)
Miracle League of Blaine t-shirts, hoodies, and car decals (like other sports teams)
T-shirts and hoodies can be customized for an additional fee (ie, Izzy’s Mom on the back, etc)
Cookie dough sale
Polar Plunge in January
Miracle League day at Dairy Queen, Buffalo Wild Wings, etc
Sponsorship opportunities for local businesses (please let us know if your company is willing to sponsor). We have a sponsorship request letter we can hand out for your reference.
Vikings game day concession stand work (we would work their concession stand and they give us a portion of the proceeds for our league) – I know a lot of parents would like to do this!
Another reason to raise funds are that we are in need of a new field. It is in disrepair along the baselines and in the dugouts where it is coming apart. We can patch it but that will only last a couple of years in our harsh climate.
The field was built 10 years ago and at that time, they didn’t know that it shouldn’t be built on blacktop or with latex. The national office has new guidelines for building fields. Johnny Franklin is the Field Development Manager and he is aware of our issues on our field. We have been in touch with Landscape Structures regarding a new field and they will be getting us a price for that some time soon so we will know what we need to raise to build a new field in the same spot.
Another thing we would like to focus on is an inclusive playground. We know the playground that is at the park now is considered “handicap accessible” but that only means our kids can roll up to it. It is not accessible in that they can’t actually play on it. There are no accessible swings, slides, or ground upon which to roll their chairs and walkers. Please see this playground to see an idea of what we want to build. It is a lofty goal, but one the board believes we can reach if we work together. This is a 4 to 5 year goal for our league and an awesome opportunity to bring our community together for our kids. This park would also be built by Landscape Structures.
We have tons of volunteer opportunities available. We are looking for buddies for each Saturday game, along with more coaches and assistant coaches. We also need a parent volunteer for each team to be responsible for snack sign-ups, jersey orders and handouts, and any other issues that may come up throughout the season.
We have reached out to Northwestern University, Bethel University, Blaine High School Athletics, and Centennial High School Athletcs regarding buddy opportunities. We have other organizations to contact regarding this so we will keep you posted. If you have anyone in mind to contact for buddies for our players, please get with the board and we will give you our letter for requesting buddies.
We hope that each of you will be patient with us through this transition into the fall season. As always, if you have questions or comments, please get in contact with one of the board members.
Board of Directors for the Miracle League of Blaine
The board members of the Miracle League of Blaine are listed below. The board has a lot of experience collectively in administration, finance, fundraising, and league management.
Brandy Eckman – President
Brandy Eckman is President of the Miracle League of Blaine. Brandy has a background in finance and human resources. She currently is the Business Operations Manager and Social Media Manager of a web design and digital marketing agency. In 2008, she and her family moved from Ocala, Florida to Lexington, Kentucky and they began their history with the Miracle League on the Toyota Bluegrass Miracle League. Her son, Jamie, played 6 years there and then the family moved to Lino Lakes, Minnesota. In August, Brandy is traveling to Atlanta to train with the National Miracle League leaders.
Brandy lives in Lino Lakes with her husband Joel and their children, Jamie and Riley. She is looking forward to an exciting season this Fall and working hard to make Spring’s Opening Day absolutely amazing!
Lori Gehrke – Vice President
Lori Gehrke is Vice President of the Miracle League of Blaine. Lori is very excited about the changes that are happening for all of the kids playing with the Miracle League of Blaine. Lori owns More Than Kitchens, a custom cabinetry company and has been in the custom cabinetry field for over 15 years. She has been involved in sports from a very young age and now is enjoying watching and coaching her two children. She has been a volunteer for the Special Olympics and the Miracle League since 2011.
Lori lives in Stacy with her husband Shadd and twins Braedon and Izabella (Miracle Leaguer).
Andy Stromgren – League Director
Andy Stromgren if the League Director of the Miracle League of Blaine and is responsible for community engagement and operations management. Andy holds an MBA and currently works for UnitedHealth Group as an Information Security Manager where he enjoys organizing team-building volunteer activities. Andy has a strong sporting background (he hit his first home run at the Blaine Baseball Complex) and has formerly worked for the Minnesota Sports Federation. He is currently fundraising to support the Salvation Army and participating in the 2016 Most Amazing Race – Twin Cities.
Andy is a Blaine resident with his wife Michele and twins Sawyer (Miracle Leaguer) and Sochi.
Tom Gajeski – Assistant League Director
Tom Gajeski has been involved in Miracle League for the past 7 years, either as an assistant coach or coach on Wednesday nights. Hi is grateful that Miracle League had a field close to his family so his son had a place to play baseball. He is on the board for Miracle League of Blaine to make sure that children with disabilities can experience the game of baseball in a safe and positive environment. “There is so much that we can accomplish if we all work together towards a common goal and that goal is a league that we can all be proud to be a part of!”
Joyce Golaski – Fundraising Chairman
Joyce has been with the Miracle League as a parent for many years. She has a background in finance and executive assisting. Joyce lives in the north metro and has two sons, Derrick (Miracle Leaguer) and Dylan. She is very excited about helping the league raise funds for a new field and playground.
Advisory Board – Elected by Board in an Advisory Capacity
Joel Eckman – Publicity and Sponsorship Chairman / Marketing Director
The Miracle League is a charitable organization that provides children with mental and / or physical challenges an opportunity to play baseball as a team member in an organized league.
There is something about playing the game of baseball that lights up kids’ eyes, but for children facing physical and mental challenges, that opportunity can often be a difficult first step.
The Miracle League gives these children the opportunity to get out in the sunshine and enjoy playing the game of baseball in its purest form. Since 2006 the Miracle League of Blaine, Minnesota has been providing children with disabilities from the ages of 3-21 the opportunity to play baseball.
The Miracle League is a fully inclusive program.
Anyone aged 3-21 with a disability may be eligible to play.
Every player scores a run before the inning is over
Every team and every player wins every game
Be a Buddy or Volunteer!
A buddy’s role is to assist the player both offensively and defensively, as little or as much as each individual player requires. Buddies also assist the player in being an active participant in the game and to look out for the safety of the player at all times.
There have been a lot of questions regarding the change of weekly schedule for the Fall season.
Please know that this decision was not taken lightly and that the board did vote unanimously to make the schedule be Tuesday nights at 6:30 for the only week night games with all other games being on Saturday starting at 9 am.
Our reasoning for this is that the majority of the over 300 Miracle Leagues in the country all play on Saturdays as is the guideline from the national office. We also will be using buddies for our players’ safety and for the parents to have few minutes of respite in the week. Buddies and other volunteers are more readily available on Saturdays as well as umpires, coaches, and team parents.
As for our finances, we are short on funds currently. We have had to pay quite a bit of money to fund our company organization, nonprofit status, dues to the Miracle League to function as a proper league, business expenses, etc. If anyone would like a financial accounting of where we are, you may request this from the board. As a nonprofit, it is our responsibility to share all of this information with you when requested and once yearly. Board meetings are also open to all who wish to attend. If you are unable to attend a meeting, please submit your questions and we can answer those via email or phone calls.
We will be setting up fundraisers in the near future so please stay tuned for those announcements. We hope that you’ll all help make this league the best it can be!
The board will be sending out bios and contact information for each of its members within the next two weeks. If you have any questions in the meantime, please send an email to the League Directors Brandy Eckman and Lori Gehrke at: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
We hope that everyone has had a great experience with the last few weeks of our Miracle League of Blaine Spring / Summer 2016 season! We know there are many changes happening and we are so appreciative of your support as we transition to the new leadership.
We are looking forward to another great season in the fall!
Registration will be opening for the fall season in the next couple of weeks. The fall season will run from August 13th through September 10th with options for play this season on Tuesday nights at 6:30 and Saturdays starting at 9 am. Our goal is to get everyone playing on Saturday and rotating the games so that players and parents can meet folks on the other teams. This will enable everyone to make new friends and play on a real baseball league!
End of Season Party
As our funds are limited at this point, we would like to ask everyone to bring a snack or dessert to share (nothing homemade as we need to be able to read labels for our kiddos with food allergies) and drinks for your own family. Please continue to RSVP on the Facebook page, or reply to this email with your headcount so we can plan for everyone.
In the coming weeks we will begin to discuss with you our fundraising drives. There will be plenty of opportunities to raise funds with the ideas the board has agreed upon and we are very excited to share these with you at the party / meeting on the 16th.
We will also be sending out bios and contact information for each of the 5 current board members so that you will know who is running the league. We firmly believe that an open and honest line of communication will benefit us all.
Please forward this email to anyone you feel would enjoy being a part of our Miracle League community. We are currently looking for new players, volunteers, coaches, and team parents. If you wish to volunteer, please reply to this email and we will put you on the list.
We want to thank each of you again for being patient with the transition.
If you have any comments or questions, please reply to this email, or direct them to either League Director:
Brandy Eckman (email@example.com)
Lori Gehrke (firstname.lastname@example.org).
If you haven’t liked us on Facebook yet, please do so. There is a lot of information going on there. There are also notifications going out on the website at www.miracleleagueofblaine.org.
Hello parents and coaches from the Blaine Miracle League field!
As you may have noticed, there are some changes occurring at our Blaine Miracle League field. Working together with the National Miracle
League, a new board of directors has been formed to represent the field under Miracle League guidelines. The newly recognized entity, “Miracle League of Blaine” will be responsible for all player, coach and buddy registration, game schedules, equipment and events. Continue reading →
Izabella Gehrke, a Miracle League of Blaine Saturday teammate, played in Minnetonka today.
Izzy was part of a group of kids who played with the All-Star high school boys as buddies.
This was a huge event put on by our friends with the West Metro Miracle League. Thanks to Tonya Andruskiewicz for the invitation! We look forward to meeting you again. To see how much fun Izzy had, see the photos below.