Associated Bank colleagues recently held a Jeans for a Cause day and raised $620 for the Allouez Optimists Miracle League of Green Bay.

The Miracle League gives children with mental and/or physical challenges, ages 4 to 19 years, an opportunity to play baseball in an organized league with real uniforms, regardless of their capabilities. Founded in 2006, it’s one of five Miracle League programs in Wisconsin. The others are in Fox Valley, Kenosha, Milwaukee and Lakeshore.

Brenda Basten, accounting specialist at Associated Bank, has two boys that have been playing for Miracle League since 2007. “Without donations from others, my children would no longer be able to play baseball,” she said.

Basten’s first son, Evan, is 13 years old. At the age of 2 Basten first noticed he was having speech delays and sensory issues. By the time he started school at three years old, teachers recommended he get tested for autism. After being tested, he was diagnosed with severe autism. However, he stays involved in many activities to develop social skills — like Applied Behavior Analysis therapy, swimming lessons at the Cerebral Palsy Center, 4-H Youth Development Organization, Special Olympics, and Miracle League.

Basten’s second son, 10 year old Joshua, was diagnosed with severe autism at the age of 2-1/2. He can only say “mama,” “bye,” and “eat.” To communicate, he uses gestures along with his iPad. He requires one-on-one attention and is not social. To help Josh get involved, Basten signed him up for in Applied Behavior Analysis therapy, swimming lessons at the Cerebral Palsy Center, and Miracle League.

“These funds allow my children to play baseball once a week on a rubberized field,” said Basten. “Donations to Miracle League not only go to the baseball field but also to help maintain the entire handicap-accessible park.”

The grassy turf is very difficult to navigate for people using wheelchairs, walkers and braces. Bumps and irregular surfaces also make moving around awkward and dangerous. Miracle League has made playing ball safe for those with disabilities by building a field with a special surface.

“By playing in Miracle League, a child’s self-esteem grows. They make friends, become less isolated and just become a regular kid, not a kid with a disability,” said Basten. “The point of the game is less about baseball and more about fun. It means a great deal to my family knowing that Associated and its colleagues are willing to help a cause which greatly affects me."

Evan poses for his Miracle League baseball photo.