Profile: Field of Angels – Creating an even playing field

Published 3:00 pm Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Denise Eddleman, a member of the board of directors, said many local teenagers come out on Saturday mornings to help with the league.

“We involved a lot of our teenagers, and they come for community service hours,” Eddleman said. “A lot of times, after that first time, they call us and ask to help again.”

Calera residents John and Judy Mooney watched from the stands as their daughters, Calera High School junior Bethany and freshman Jordan, run the bases as buddies for the players.

“They’ve been buddies since the beginning,” Judy said. “They do it to give back to the community and these precious children.”

After helping 9-year-old Dawson Danzer bat, Bethany hustled to push Dawson’s wheelchair around all three bases and into home plate.

“I do it because I love helping special-needs kids, and here they’re part of something,” Bethany said. “They’ll get excited over little things, and they’re really funny and fun to talk to.”

Buddy Anna Beth Chadwick, right, high fives an orange team member. (Reporter photo/Christine Boatwright)

Buddy Anna Beth Chadwick, right, high fives an orange team member. (Reporter photo/Christine Boatwright)


Dawson played on the orange team with his older brother, 14-year-old Payton. The family has been a part of Field of Angels since the league’s inception three years ago.

“They have so much fun, and it gives them something to go back to school and talk about,” said the boys’ mother, Maggie. “A lot of these kids are with typical kids at school and hear them talk about playing football and baseball.

“It’s either school or baseball, that’s all they talk about,” Maggie added, laughing.

Dawson, who attends Montevallo Elementary, and Payton, at Montevallo Middle, were both born with hydrocephalus, also known as “water in the brain” in which there is an excess of cerebrospinal fluid, and cerebral palsy, which can case physical disability.

“We’re not the only family with two special needs kids,” Maggie Danzer said. “It’s the only thing we know. To us, they’re normal; to us, they’re typical.”

Mimi Birk, whose husband Paul coaches the orange team, has watched her two children, Taylor Morris and Rebekah Birk, from the stands for three years.

“They live for Saturdays,” Mimi said. “They’re up at 6 in the morning.”

Taylor, a 12-year-old at Calera Intermediate with Cri du chat syndrome, a genetic disorder, and 6-year-old Calera Elementary student Rebekah, who was born with autism, play on what their mother called an “even playing field.”

“It’s very empowering because you see you’re not alone,” Mimi said.

Chris said the community support has been “amazing.”

“I think a lot of parents are appreciative,” Chris said. “The feedback I get is that they enjoy coming down here and appreciate the effort we put in.

The six-week season concludes with a closing ceremony and team parties.

“We try to make it a World Series game every time they come out,” Chris said. “It’s great to have somebody cheer for them, as that wouldn’t normally happen.

“The reason I keep doing it is seeing the happiness these kids have,” he added.