Nov. 7, 2011
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By Jenna Marina
ORLANDO, Fla. (UCFAthletics.com) - Twenty members of the UCF track and field team traded in their running shoes for bats and gloves on Saturday when the team headed to Trotters Park to volunteer with the Central Florida Miracle League.
The Central Florida Miracle League welcomes children ages 6-16, and according to its mission statement, the organization strives "to help children with disabilities build self-worth, overcome boundaries and achieve their dreams by participating in America's past-time: Baseball."
Each Knight buddied up with one Miracle Leaguer and the pairs played catch, took turns batting and fielding, and most importantly just entertained each other and had fun.
"It's definitely a humbling experience and good for the incoming freshmen to see that there's something more important than what we do as a team and individuals on a day-to-day basis," UCF distance coach Paul Brown said. "Because this is something we've done for the past few years, there is a special bond with some of the Miracle Leaguers and our team."
Seniors on the team have formed such tight bonds with participants of the Miracle League over the years that UCF two-time All American Jackie Coward is even Facebook friends with one she met her freshman year. The two chat occasionally, and he offers her advice on how she can improve her speed on the track.
"They look up to us as their big sisters and their big brothers, and we look at them as our younger brothers and sisters," Coward said. "We love volunteering with the Miracle League. The kids just bring joy out of you. It's a blessing and an honor to be a mentor to them. We all had so much fun on Saturday."
The Knights will also be participating in the Walk Now for Autism Speaks on Saturday at 10:30 a.m. at Cranes Roost Park in Altamonte Springs.
"We're big on service in our program, and that's one of the things that sets us apart from other schools," Brown said.