The Miracle Field has a rubberized, barrier-free turf that allows children with disabilities to play baseball safely.

Editor’s Note: In 2010, the Fargo-Moorhead Rotary Foundation, which is supported by five Rotary clubs in the Fargo, North Dakota, and Moorhead, Minnesota, USA, area, raised 100 percent of the funds needed to build a Miracle Field in Moorhead. Keith Brokke shares how they were able to make an impact with their project.

By Keith Brokke, past governor of District 5580 (Minnesota, North Dakota, USA) and a member of the Rotary Club of Fargo-Moorhead AM

In the spring of 2010, a Rotary member came to us with the idea to build a Miracle Field, a special field with a rubberized, barrier-free turf that allows children with disabilities to play baseball safely. We had previously built a universal playground five years before in Fargo to commemorate the 100-year anniversary of Rotary. We felt a Miracle Field was a good fit for our Fargo-Moorhead Rotary Foundation.
Since we had worked successfully with the Fargo Park District in the earlier project, we decided to approach the Moorhead Parks & Recreation department for the Miracle Field. We knew that it is important early in the planning process to design a project for results. Part of a well-planned project is working closely with partners who also have a stake in the outcome. We learned that the Moorhead Parks and Recreation department had already done a needs assessment and wanted to build a Miracle Field, but faced budget constraints. They were ecstatic when the Fargo-Moorhead Foundation offered to build the field.

Part of a well-planned project is working closely with partners who also have a stake in the outcome.

Back in 2005, the Fargo park district had promised to finance our universal playground interest-free and provide maintenance if we raised all the funds to build it. We got a similar agreement with Moorhead. We were able to raise 90 percent of the $254,000 total needed by June 2010.

It’s vital to get partners to contribute resources and expertise. In Fargo, we had secured nonprofit status as a tax-deductible entity so we could get businesses to donate. With the Miracle Field, we offered to display the logo of a business on the outside fence if they contributed $5,000. A lot of businesses took the offer and felt the money was well spent.

Besides the parks department and area businesses, we also partnered with two organizations: HOPE Inc. and FM Challengers that work with kids and adults with disabilities and mobility challenges. Both organizations provide softball on a regular field that made it difficult for people who use wheelchairs and walkers to play safely. We approached them and they were excited to join us. We knew they could spread the word and help raise funds.
The Fargo Moorhead Rotary Club worked with the Park District and City of Moorhead on the project.

Hope Inc. was started by a Moorhead couple whose son uses a wheelchair. They found there were 400 children in wheelchairs in the Fargo-Moorhead area who would use the field weekly during the summer months.

The Miracle League in Conyers, Georgia, USA, helped us learn where other fields were stationed in Minnesota and North Dakota. They also helped us with specifications for the field and fencing.

The rubberized surface of a Miracle Field ensures that if children in a wheelchair tip over as they round a base, they’re not injured. One aspect we hadn’t anticipated was that Pee Wee Leagues for kids who don’t have disabilities would also want to use the field. Offering the field to them to use was a win-win.

A lot of things came together in a short period to make this project happen and for us to raise all the funds in four months. Only 18 months elapsed from the beginning of fundraising to completing the field.

We’ve been working together on projects locally and internationally since 2003 and have regular meetings to determine joint projects. Our Miracle Field project was successful because we spent time designing for results, addressing our community’s needs, and involving groups with a stake in the outcome. Well-planned projects make an impact. Some clubs just want to do their own projects. But in our experience, we have found that putting all our assets together and working on a common cause with partners will more likely create positive lasting change.