JOPLIN, MO. — As we reflect on the events that occurred 10 years ago on May 22 in Joplin, so much has been done to make sure we never forget what happened that day.
One of those things was the creation of the Will Norton miracle field, home to the miracle league of Joplin. While it’s existence stemmed from an unthinkable tragedy, it’s since become a place of joy, unity and hope.
From afar, it may look like just a baseball field, but for members of the Joplin community, it’s so much more than that.
It’s namesake, Will Norton was one of the victims of the 2011 Joplin tornado. He was known for his kindness and his desire to make everyone he met feel welcomed and included. That’s exactly what the field reflects.
“Out here, everybody plays,” said Margie Black, whose serves on the board of directors. “Everyone gets it. There’s nothing but love on the field.”
Its a place specifically designed to accommodate those with disabilities and special needs. It’s where the miracle league of Joplin holds their baseball games. The league is for individuals with disabilities.
Black said she first got involved because of her son Scottie.
“It gave the kids a chance to play ball,” said Black. “Do something that probably typically weren’t going to get to experience. That team bonding on a field, playing ball, that social interaction, just the whole, everything that comes with playing a sport.”
That’s what drew the Shusters in. It was a chance for their daughter Kaylyn to be apart of something uniquely hers.
“Just something for her to look forward to that’s only hers,” said Angie Shuster. “I mean, other kids are doing all their sports events and other things and this is something that’s just…It’s her thing and allows her to be involved in something.”
It wasn’t just the inclusivity the Shusters loved, it was also the support and sense of community.
“This isn’t an easy life and if you don’t live it, it’s really kind of hard to explain and you don’t have to explain to anybody when you’re here because they get it,” said Mike Shuster.
While will may be gone, his spirit and everything he stood for in life lives on through the miracle league.
“To honor will in that way is I hope in some small way, brings comfort to his family,” said Black. “To know that so many people are experiencing such a joy-filled opportunity to just be like everybody else.”