Miracle League

Coastal baseball players work with the Miracle Leagues Special Olympics softball team to hone their skills.

Everyone is a winner at the Grand Strand Miracle Leagues, and this time around the Miracle Leagues itself was a winner, thanks to TD Bank.

That’s because the Grand Strand area TD Bank locations banded together to help fund the Miracle Leagues as part of their “Bring Change” program. Last Friday, TD Bank held a fundraiser for donations of money and other goods at their six locations, and Saturday presented a check for more than $6,400 to the organization.

“TD Bank is very much behind, and very much a strong supporter of inclusion and diversity within the community,” said John Rutenberg, regional vice president of TD Bank locations along the Grand Strand. “An organization like the Grand Strand Miracle Leagues is a great example of doing that.”

Dozens of TD Bank employees and their families volunteered to be “buddies” with the athletes Saturday.

Meanwhile, members of Coastal Carolina University’s National Championship Baseball team spent the morning helping the Miracle Leagues advanced team, which competes in the Special Olympics, hone their skills.

Coastal freshman Patrick Orlando just started at the college, but he has experience volunteering with the Miracle Leagues.

“I actually live here and I played at Carolina Forest High School,” Orlando said. “I’ve come over and done this a couple times.”

So when he had the opportunity to be a buddy as part of his college experience, he was happy to do it.

“I love coming here every time I come,” he said. “There’s nothing better than helping these kids play baseball on a Saturday morning.”

They weren’t the only ones who showed up. Saturday’s game was sponsored by the Grand Strand chapter of the South Carolina CPAs, and they brought along members of Beta Alpha Psi, the Accounting Honor Society at Coastal Carolina University.

“Honestly, it’s just so much fun,” said Coastal senior and Beta Alpha Psi member Jennifer Sheprow. “It’s all smiles all around.”

Grand Strand Miracle League’s executive director Jennifer Averette was overjoyed to see so many people having a good time with the children she serves.

But the smiles on the faces of the young people are what really excite her.

“We really fill a hole for the special needs community,” Averette said. “There are agencies around who do some great work, but this is special because it makes them feel like they can be part of a team just like their brothers and sisters could.”

The rest of the season will bring all sorts of smiles, too. The last game of the season, which is scheduled for Oct. 28, will be their annual Halloween celebration.

“We have everyone dress up,” Averette said. “Sam’s Club hands out tons of candy at each base.”

But the Miracle Leagues couldn’t do it without support of businesses like TD Bank, and Averette is grateful for their donation.

“That will really go far towards our programming,” she said. “All the donations from businesses during our games go toward our programming – we’ll use it for baseball, soccer and golf programs and to recruit new players, buy new equipment, that sort of thing.”

Rutenberg and the rest of the TD Bank employees had a great time.

“Being someone who lives in this area and being part of this community, we see the importance of the Miracle Leagues,” Rutenberg noted. “It’s good for us to get involved in and support organizations we really believe in.

“For the employees, it’s a great day to spend time with each other and the athletes,” he continued.

Rutenberg hopes that their donation of time and money helps bring attention and more support to the Miracle Leagues.

For Orlando, who has high hopes for Coastal’s upcoming baseball season, his Saturday mornings with the Miracle League athletes are something truly special.

“Helping these guys play baseball is the best feeling,” he said. “Whenever they invite us, we’re not going to say no.”

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