Jesuit actors help Miracle League players soar

I started volunteering as a “buddy” for the Miracle League of Greater New Orleans about three years ago when my sister Emily, who is autistic, had signed up to play baseball. All of the players are physically or mentally challenged, and the “buddies” are there to help them with batting, running the bases or any other way in which they need assistance. I soon realized what an important opportunity this is for the participants.

On Thursday nights when the older members play baseball, there is much excitement on the part of the players, their parents and family members. The cheers are loud and are greatly appreciated by the players who often “ham” it up for their audience. Baseball has been so popular that the league expanded its offerings to soccer and basketball.

Some Catholic high schools sponsor uniforms for the players, an end-of-the-year baseball game, provide cheerleaders to teach the girls cheers to perform at games and a field for soccer.

I realized that I wanted my high school, Jesuit, to become involved and resolved to find a way to make this happen.

My expertise lies not in the area of sports but with the arts, so I sought to suggest a different type of activity for the Miracle League. I am currently co-president of Jesuit’s drama group, the Philelectic Society, and thought we could present a musical workshop for the Miracle League players as a service project. Since our musical production this spring is “Damn Yankees,” it was the perfect play for them to see.

After discussing the idea with Phils director, Kate Arthurs-Goldberg (known to us as Ms. A), and getting permission from the administration, we proceeded to plan the workshop. An email invitation was sent to older Miracle League members offering an opportunity to attend a musical workshop.

Ms. A and I discussed and planned the songs that we would sing and some simple movements that could be taught to accompany the singing. We decided “Heart” from Damn Yankees would help familiarize the participants with the play.

Members of the Phils worked as “buddies” with Miracle League players, helping them learn the words and movements as we rehearsed the songs. We sang “I Don’t Wanna Grow Up” from Peter Pan, “Sing” from Sesame Street and “Heart.”

After the rehearsal and a short break, the group presented its show for the parents and Jesuit personnel present. The audience applauded loudly in appreciation of the performance. The evening concluded with an appearance by Jayson, the Jesuit mascot, and king cake in the lobby.

“It was a great experience to combine my love for the Miracle League with my love for the Phils,” Allison Hoss, a freshman at Ursuline and Miracle League “buddy” volunteer, remarked.

Another Phils member, Jesuit junior Alex Daigle, stated, “This was an emotionally moving event, and I hope we will be able to do this again.”

Ms. A has since told me that she hopes to make the musical workshop an annual or semi-annual event. As a junior, I will only be able to participate one more year, but will take great satisfaction for helping establish a new tradition at my high school.

Connor Hill is a junior at Jesuit High School in New Orleans.

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