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Mayor Douglas Athas gives a high-five to one of the Buddy League Players - Garland Texas

Last night, as a member of the Garland Park Board, I attended our regular meeting and learned about yet another reason to celebrate the community I live in:  The Buddy League.

The Buddy League, unique to our community, was founded by Heather Miller—a local resident who grew up in Garland.  Unlike most buddy organizations that pair adults with children, the buddy league is a peer to peer buddy system. The buddies are children from ages 8 to 18.  Not only is the Buddy League a life changing experience for the children with special needs, it is also a life-changing experience for their buddies as well. 

Heather’s son, Ben Miller was born March 1991 a normal healthy little boy.  At age three months, following his first immunizations his life was changed forever.  He began having seizures.  Ben is now twenty-six and his seizures are severe and frequent.  Sometimes he can’t remember his parent’s names but he never forgets during baseball season that Saturday is baseball day.

Until age 11 Ben played baseball with his three brothers.  He played with the younger kids and he loved it. He laughed, smiled and for one hour a week he was just like everyone else.  Then one day Heather got a phone call that the league could no longer make modifications for Ben and he could no longer play—another dream shattered for Ben.

In the fall of 2002 the Buddy League began.  It was for all the kids out there who, like Ben, needed the chance to be just regular kids, if only for one week.  It was for all the other parents who watch helplessly as their children are excluded and shunned.  A safe, accepting place, the Buddy League was created for them—free from teasing and failure.  In Buddy League sports, everyone plays, everyone is cheered, and everyone is a winner.

WHY STOP AT BASEBALL AS A NORMAL EXPERIENCE FOR THESE KIDS?

After hearing Heather Miller’s presentation last night, I sent her the following email and copied a few of my friends on it:

Thank you, Heather, for sharing your beautiful story with us last night.

You are a great example of how one person can change the lives of so many.  As Molly said last night, you touched the hearts of all the Garland Parks and Recreation staff and the folks on the Parks and Recreation Board.

We live in such an interactive world and your story reminded me of that.  So often we forget that when we do something for others, we end up being the ones who derive the most benefit from the interaction. I thought about that when you spoke of the volunteers and their experience.

It is such a brilliant idea to use peers ages 8 to 18 as baseball buddies to children with special needs.  As you said, this experience will change the hearts and attitudes of those volunteers forever.

Please let me know when your next game will be.  I would love to come and watch the kiddos play and interact together.

 _____________________________________________

Speaking of Creating Ripples in the Universe, Heather, you created some in my universe too! 

You created some ripples in my own world.  Much of my own heart and soul belong to the world of urban agriculture.  As we move more and more into the 21st century and urban living, I believe it is ever more important for us to grow some of the food we eat and to do what we can to restore habitat for creatures in our yards and parks that has been destroyed by our encroaching urbanization.

Baseball is a great activity for kids and so is gardening.  Kids love gardens, worms, butterflies and nature in general.  I am one of the founding members of Loving Garland Green and the Garland Community Garden located at 4022 Naaman School Road.  Over the past three years I've had the pleasure to watch the unbridled joy of classrooms and indeed even entire grades with 112 students romping in the garden.  In addition I've taught several special horticulture classes at Beaver MST and Watson MST.  All kids love nature and they love learning about it and experiencing it.

So, after your presentation, I've been thinking:  How can we turn these kids into urban farmers/nature lovers?  I don't know how wheelchair accessible the Garland Community Garden is, but it might be more so than I think.  It would take a knowledgeable person like you to check it out.  In addition, it's possible we could build some beds at wheelchair accessible height on the outer edges near the driveway (which is mostly covered in grass that we keep mowed but there is a hard gravel surface underneath).

Then I happened to think of three of our schools that have great gardens and also greenhouses: Watson MST; Beaver MST; and Harmony School.  These might be great places for the kids to garden and experience nature as you already have the built-in buddies with the students and they would be wheelchair accessible.  It would be a great program for learning all kinds of good values--not to mention gardening skills.

In case you don't already know, it's a proven scientific fact that interacting with nature improves our health and sense of well being.  There is even a science, Biophilia that is dedicated to the study of the relationship between our health and our interactions with nature.

Any way,  we'll just see where this goes.  In the attempt to create more ripples to support your kids and broaden the scope of Buddy League, I've copied folks on this email who can not only create ripples, but also waves.   

Thank you again, Heather, for sharing your beautiful story.  You are truly a great example of what good one person can accomplish.

Sincerely

Liz Berry (member of Garland Park Board and founding member of Loving Garland Green

For those who are not familiar with Garland's Buddy League:

 The Buddy League, Inc.

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