Story by Gregory Mitchell on 09/25/2019PENSACOLA, Fla. U.S. Navy Sailors from Naval Air Technical Training Center (NATTC) onboard Naval Air Station (NAS) Pensacola recently joined members of Miracle League of Pensacola (MLP), a non-profit organization, to repair and upgrade baseball fields for special needs children in the local community, Sept. 17.
The MLP provides physically and mentally challenged children a safe and spirited program in which they can hit, run and catch on a baseball field like other youth.
"The experience has been nothing, but rewarding for me," said Air Traffic Controllman First Class Petty Officer Vincent Pang. "We are helping people to be able to participate in a sport that they usually would not have the ability to do so. In that, for me, just seeing the energy, the smiles and the kids having fun makes it worthwhile. I've been volunteering for this organization since April of 2017 and it's been great."
Over the course of three weeks, Miracle League staff members and Sailors worked together to place over 39,000 pounds of special rubberized surfacing on field number 2 of 3 that has been deemed American Disabilities Act (ADA) compliant for safe use. The surface allows the children to perform without fear of injuring themselves during play. Once the surface was completely in place, the Sailors then applied all the required baseball diamond stripes.
Pang has lead several working parties consisting of predominately young Sailors who are in training at NATTC to eventually take their newfound skills and put them to effective use in the fleet.
"I really love doing this because I know people who are not in the position to give back and now that I have this opportunity to help others in need, this really makes me feel like I am doing something worthy that someone else can gain from," said Airman Apprentice Charles Weigart.
The support of the Sailors extends beyond just repairing the fields; several of them have become what is termed as buddies' aids who assist the children during games, ensuring that they have a safe and fun time playing ball. Miracle League games are played every Friday and every Saturday evening. Every player plays, hits, gets on base, scores and wins every inning.
"Being a buddy' to the children makes you feel good," said Weigart. "It makes me want to come back every Saturday when I'm helping the little guys play too - that's really exciting for me so all in all, I feel like it's a very gratifying experience because I get to meet new people and just help the kids grow and learn in ways that they may not have been able to."
Appreciation for support of the Sailors was regularly expressed by the entire staff of the Miracle League organization.
"The service members who routinely come out are very kind to the kids and they definitely look up to them," said Larry Thompson, president of the Miracle League. "We couldn't do what we do as the Miracle League without buddies', and ever since the Miracle League has been here - going on 15 years strong - we've always had the military involved. That was one thing we felt strongly about when we began this league; the fact that we can generate an abundance of community support but also that the military has consistently been one of the strongest."
Thompson continued on.
"The military has been a sponsor of ours since day one and not only do they sponsor us in the games, they also come out like they did tonight during a work week," said Thompson. We have 14 Sailors which is remarkable when you think that as young people they could be doing whatever they want to do on base. They chose to come out here and work with us. Again, we couldn't do what we do at the Miracle League without some of the best the best buddies we have which come from NAS Pensacola."
Naval Air Technical Training Center's mission is to provide the highest quality and best trained aircraft technicians and maintainers to support Fleet operations throughout the world while taking care of their personnel, to include their families, while being good neighbors in the City of Pensacola and the surrounding Region.