Run boosts ‘Miracle’ project

ndunn@newsobserver.comApril 21, 2014 

Cornstarch and food coloring are everywhere, and they love it.

The runners, trotting through the sticky substance at checkpoints, can’t help but laugh as specially-rigged leaf blowers spew out the red, yellow and green material along the Color Spectacular course. Most wear sunglasses to protect their eyes.

The inaugural run, held in the Portofino community in Clayton, is great for photos, sure, because runners end up covered in color. But organizer Calvin Spradlin said his events, like this one, also benefit area charities.

“We build all of this around supporting nonprofits,” said Spradlin, founder of Reciprocity Events. “There are national groups that come in, and they are only giving 1 percent. We are giving 10-20 percent, depending on the turnout.”

Money from the Clayton run will benefit The Partnership for Children of Johnston County, which is helping raise money for a state-of-the-art and all-inclusive play space in Smithfield.

The planned complex off of Booker Dairy Road will have an inclusion park with accessible playground equipment and a baseball field made of a special rubber surface.

Dwight Morris, executive director of the Partnership for Children, said no other facility in the Southeast has an inclusive playground and competition surface in one complex.

“It’s creating a full-fledged recreational facility for the whole county and the region,” Morris said. “This takes it to the next level of meeting the needs for everybody.”

The Partnership to Build a Miracle is leading the overall effort. The group is made up of the Partnership for Children and the Miracle League of Johnston County, a baseball league for children with physical, cognitive or emotional disabilities.

The two organizations have raised or identified funding sources totaling nearly $800,000, said Chris Key, chairman of the capital campaign for the Partnership to Build a Miracle. The group hopes to break ground this fall but is still seeking dollars and accepting donations.

The inclusion park will be located on 1.5 acres and include winding trails, a stream and a grassy field for free play, according to a schematic plan. The park will also have a butterfly garden, sandboxes raised to different levels, outdoor music walls with simple instruments, a wind-chime garden, benches, accessible bathrooms and lighted paths.

Key said every design element has a purpose, such as hideaways to calm over-stimulated children.

“We designed it to be beautiful and natural, where you could be walking through a park-like area and then say, ‘Oh, look, there is a play area,’” Key said.

The baseball field, or “miracle field,” will feature barrier-free dugouts, concession stands, a shaded family pavilion, accessible seating and a small playground. The baseball diamond will be a rubberized surface ideal for players using wheelchairs, walkers or other devices that assist in walking, according to the group’s website, www.partnershiptobuildamiracle.com.

Morris said the group will host a community meeting to receive additional input on schematic plans for the project.

The Town of Smithfield, which is donating the land for the complex, is also applying for up to $350,000 in state funding for the project. The state is expected to announce grant recipients this summer.

For more information, search “The Partnership to Build a Miracle” on Facebook.

Dunn: 919-553-7234, EXt. 104

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