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Although Pearland (Texas) Parks and Recreation has offered adaptive recreation for nearly 15 years — and department operations include a Diversity, Equity and Inclusivity Task Force — the agency recognizes a commitment to inclusivity means remaining relevant as community needs change. During the past two years, the city completed construction on two major projects to further meet those needs, Pearland’s Miracle League Field and the Ed Thompson Inclusive Park.
Pearland’s Miracle League Field opened in spring 2022 as part of the second-phase project completion of the Sports Complex at Shadow Creek Ranch. Among other community stakeholders, the department’s Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist, Araceli Bravo, provided input on project design and was instrumental throughout the project.
Carry Capers, director of parks and recreation, shares, “We wanted full representation at the design table to ensure the project was going to meet the needs of the people who would be using the fields — we want to eliminate barriers, not create more of them.”
The specialized rubber turf field is accompanied by an adaptive training facility, accessible locker rooms and concessions. Innovative use of space and creative design places the Miracle League Field within the existing sports complex to play alongside softball, baseball, cricket, rugby, soccer and football leagues.
Offering two seasons per year, the Miracle League program fills quickly with more than 80 players each season. Pearland Miracle League utilizes “Buddies,” volunteer companions assigned to each player throughout the game. Buddies and other league volunteers collectively serve approximately 1,800 hours each season.
All accommodations are planned and executed carefully to meet each player’s individual needs. Players are outfitted with adaptive uniforms and customized equipment suitable for all abilities. Of all the personal touches created by Bravo, there is no greater crowd favorite than each player’s intro music playing when they exit the dugout and arrive to bat!
The city recently celebrated the grand opening of the Ed Thompson Inclusive Park, directly adjacent to the Miracle League Field, in April 2023. The inclusive playground was made possible through the city’s partnership with the Forever Parks Foundation of Pearland and Inclusion Matters by Shane’s Inspiration. Banded with the purpose of inclusive recreational play for all ages and abilities to enjoy together, $1.3 million was raised to bring this project to life.
More than a playground, it is a programmable space that allows for ongoing recreation programming and community partnerships, such as the “Together, We Are Able®” Inclusive Play curriculum piloted by the local school districts this summer.
Although the city, Pearland Parks and Recreation, the Forever Parks Foundation of Pearland and countless advocates are pleased with the successful projects, the work is not done. These are merely the “firsts” in inclusive play enhancements. To connect with Pearland Parks and Recreation or learn more about these initiatives, visit pearlandparks.com.
Monica Montoya-Phelps is Parks and Recreation Services Administrator, Pearland (Texas) Parks and Recreation