NORTH AUGUSTA — When she started a bowling league for her son with cerebral palsy, Pam Stickler had no idea how big it would become.
Twenty years later, that bowling league is still going strong, and she’s close to seeing a major dream fulfilled as plans are being made for construction of a Miracle League field at Riverview Park.
“We started our 20th year in July, and I thought ‘wouldn’t it be neat if it opened in our 20th year?’” said Stickler, who started the RECing Crew with that initial bowling league with just 20 bowlers including her son, Stephen, who recently turned 43.
It’s blossomed into a thriving program with a variety of different activities for nearly 200 adults and children with disabilities. In addition to the Alley Cats bowling league that meets at Northside Lanes every Tuesday afternoon, there’s jazzercise, ballet, art and a cooking class via Zoom just to name a few activities.
Glenda and Jackie Cooper got their two sons Matthew and Jonathan involved more than 10 years ago. Both have autism and are now in their 20s.
“It’s been a great outlet for the kids,” said Jackie Cooper. “We’re blessed to have a program like this.”
The Coopers have primarily been involved on the athletic side — bowling, basketball and baseball — but Jackie Cooper said he likes that there are so many options for others. And he doesn’t think there are too many organizations out there that have as many programs and as much variety as what The RECing Crew offers.
When it comes to sports, the Miracle League field, which offers a special surface easily accessible for wheelchairs, will be able to provide a place for adaptive baseball, soccer, bocce ball and others, Stickler said.
“There will be two multipurpose fields that can be used for any sport,” she said.
And the fields could be utilized for more than athletic events, Stickler said.
Social events are important for members of the RECing Crew. Once they are out of the school system, their social connections tend to dwindle. The pandemic was hard for the membership, she said, because of the limitations put on social interaction.
Not only will there be a field, but there will be a pavilion and a digital screen, which could be used for movie nights.
“I could see it for Easter egg hunts, pizza and bingo,” she said.
It’s not just the participants who benefit from the programming, but Stickler and Cooper said it’s been good for the parents as well. Georgia and South Carolina’s government programs are vastly different, and parents have been able to help each other in navigating school systems and government social programs. They’ve also formed friendships.
“It’s a really good network,” Cooper said.
Cooper said the parental support was great when searching for options after his sons transitioned out of the school system and parents told him and his wife about options for their sons during the day.
When it comes to the Miracle League fields, they won’t be just for members of The RECing Crew. The city of North Augusta will be responsible for maintaining them, and all groups including The RECing Crew will have to schedule their use, she said.
Stickler said groups such as the Paralyzed Veterans of America have expressed interest in the space.
“There are 1,800 veterans who do a traveling soccer league,” she said.
The North Augusta City Council approved the use of the park in June 2021, and Stickler’s organization has been raising money for more than a year.
The cost of the construction has fluctuated. She estimates it will cost in the $1.5 million range, but she’s had several businesses offer in kind services to defray some of the expenses. And she’s hopeful that the project will be completed by fall 2023.
To learn more or to donate, visit https://therecingcrew.com.
Charmain Z. Brackett is the publisher of Augusta Good News. Reach her at email@example.com