Sisters Joni Alvarez, Lisa Lake-Moores and Greta Graff were looking for a cause to help out — one that would make their parents proud.
So when Alvarez read about the Miracle League Field in the Brainerd Dispatch, she knew that was it. This was a project that would honor everything their parents stood for.
The sisters made a $40,000 donation — the largest personal gift to the field — through the Gustafson Family Foundation.
That brings the grand total to $174,936 — just over the project goal for the handicapped-accessible baseball field, which will be in Bane Park.
“I wish (our parents) could be here to see (the Miracle League Field). They would be so excited,” Lake-Moores said.
The Gustafson Family Foundation was set up in honor of Joe and Kay Gustafson, who lived in the Brainerd area.
With a strong passion for children and the handicapped, the couple left the endowment so their work could be continued after their passing.
The Miracle League Field fits that devotion to a tee, the sisters say.
“Mom and dad would do anything to help children,” Alvarez said. “The sick, the underprivileged, the handicapped.”
Joe Gustafson, who was an avid Shriner, had always looked to help the younger generation. It’s something he and his wife shared.
Now their daughters are working to keep that fire alive.
Enter the Miracle League Field.
Alvarez and Lake-Moores, who both live in Brainerd, recently met with Parks and Recreation Director Tony Sailer to learn more about the project.
“His excitement got us even more excited,” Alvarez said.
The field will affect the entire community, Sailer said.
“It will be a great learning tool,” he said. “It’s unimaginable how many people who will be served by this field. ...It just gives me goose bumps.”
Initial construction of the asphalt pad and fencing should start this month. The artificial turf won’t go in until next spring since there is a minimum of a 30-day cure period for the asphalt and minimum temperature requirements.
That means the field could be ready for use in June.
Alvarez and Lake-Moores have high hopes for the Miracle League Field.
They want it to reach every population of disabled people, whether is be children, adults or veterans. Lake-Moores wants kids to learn to express themselves on the field. Alvarez wants to give grandmothers a chance to watch their grandchildren play baseball.
“Handicapped kids are used to sitting in the bleachers,” she said. Now, they’ll be the players.”
As a grandmother, Alvarez couldn’t imagine not watching her grandchildren play sports. The field will give other grandmothers that chance, she said.
“Every grandchild deserves that, no matter what their abilities are,” she said.
Want to help?
Send tax-deductible donations to the Brainerd Parks and Recreation Department at 1619 NE Washington Street, Brainerd.
Makes checks payable to the Miracle League.
Funds will be put toward bleachers, signs and equipment. Any extra donations will go toward an all-inclusive playground adjacent to the Miracle League Field.