Giving Back: Julia Kadel – Miracle Mom

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By Jamie Salen The Pineapple Staff Writer “The only disability in life is a bad attitude.” – Scott Hamilton Delray Beach has become quite the hub for thriving charities. We have a myriad of locally based organizations as well as a number of local chapters of national based operations. We are a tight community and when a cause rears its head, we tend to respond in numbers. From Prep & Sports, to Milagro Center, to the Art House, the Education Foundation and so many more – our community engages frequently with causes that touch our lives. Pineapple-Newspaper-Giving-Back2One such organization creating miracles, not only for the children in our community with disabilities, but for the hundreds of volunteer “buddies” who have been involved in the program since its inception, is The Delray Beach Miracle League, a local chapter of a charity started in Atlanta, Georgia in the late 1990’s. Today there are 240 similar programs across the United States and recently chapters have been established in Canada and Australia as well. The concept behind the organization is simple…provide the opportunity for all children, regardless of mental or physical disability, to play baseball. “They may not play nine innings and we may not strike them out after three attempts at bat, but these kids are truly playing the game,” said Julia Kadel, Life and Health Coach and Co-Founder of the Delray Beach Miracle League. While many of us may be proud to see “Delray Beach” named as home to so many thoughtful groups and organizations dedicated to giving back, it is important to recognize the champions who took a tiny pearl of inspiration and selflessness and fought to build something new for our community. Our very own chapter of the Miracle League was first created and built by the caring and tenacity of one local family – led by matriarch and successful life and health coach, Julia Kadel. Julia and her husband Jeff – also a coach by trade – left New Jersey for Delray Beach in 1998 in order to keep their children close to their grandparents, who had retired to the area. From the very start Julia and Jeff became active members of the community through volunteering for the city’s Jaycees and the Caring Kitchen, among other established organizations. Pineapple-Newspaper-Giving-BackKnowing they wanted to become more involved as a family in the community, they were inspired by a news clip they watched on a new organization first founded in Georgia that was gaining steam around the country. “With my husband and myself both coaches, and having two young sons with a third on the way, we thought the Miracle League would be the perfect fit for us as a family,” explained Kadel. A major hurtle for any chapter of the Miracle League program is the field at which the teams play. In order to make the game truly accessible and safe for the players, a special field built of cushioned synthetic turf is required, to help prevent injury, as well as accommodate wheelchairs. “I knew we wanted our field built in the same place as the others in Delray Beach. The idea was inclusion not seclusion,” said Kadel. After meeting with the Parks and Recreation Department, Julia and Jeff appealed to then mayor, Jeff Perlman, along with the city commission, and were immediately granted $10,000 of seed money to establish the Delray Beach chapter of the Miracle League. Pineapple-Newspaper-Giving-Back3After years of grassroots fundraising and a matching grant from the county commission, the couple on a mission raised the $500,000 needed to build their very own field amongst the National Little League field at Miller Park. In spring of 2010 the field was opened and play began with both a spring and a fall season, including Saturdays, for a seven-week period. Today the Delray Beach Miracle League has over 80 players, ranging in age from 5 years old to age 19. While children in our community who live with disabilities reap the benefit of the league, this organization touches so many more Delray Beach lives than just the 80 players. The program runs a buddy system, with different members of the community assigned to each player as a mentor, personal motivator and coach. Pineapple-Newspaper-Giving-Back4High school students from the city often take the opportunity to participate as a way to complete their community service credits, but the impact has proven well beyond the simple fulfillment of a school requirement. As Julia explains, many of these “buddies” have stayed in close communication with their assigned players for years. “One of our buddies now comes home from college every chance he gets to spend time with his player, and this is not the exception to the rule.” The only requirement for becoming a Miracle League buddy is being 13 years of age or older. The league has seen nearly 100 buddies since 2010 and they seem to get just as much out the program as the players themselves. As the current chairman of the Delray Beach Education Board and a mother of three, Julia hopes the program will continue to have a positive impact on student volunteers moving forward. Pineapple-Newspaper-Giving-Back5 Her biggest hope for the future of her young charity organization is to increase local and regional awareness for the Delray Beach chapter and the national organization. “I would love to see more chapters in South Florida,” she said. “Truly, I want every child with a disability to have access to a Miracle League in their area, and if our small chapter can help to inspire others to start their own, it would a dream for us,” she adds. As a full-time mother, a full-time personal coach and the founder of a growing charity, if all of us Delray Beachers were to tell just one other person the story of the Miracle League, we could be the key to helping Julia and her families realize their dream.   For more information visit www.miracleleaguedelraybeach.com