“Because life is short but sweet for certain.” – by Dave Matthews
Marcie’s favorite quote and a lens through which she sees the world, Marcella ‘Marcie’ Post, has courageously chosen to look for the sweet, to take her pain and give it purpose. She has passionately advocated for and brought about a remarkable gift for our community: “Miracle Field,” a barrier-free, universally soft surface baseball diamond that invites athletes of all ages with complex needs and abilities to participate in the simple joys of a baseball game. Baseball, known as America’s pastime and a rite of childhood for many, is made accessible by creating this welcoming space where every athlete bats, scores, and wins while parents and friends can cheer them on from the bleachers.
Entering Marcie’s corner office, I notice how the vast windows frame a beautiful wooded corner of the Department of Services complex. “What a beautiful view,” I say as I glance about, also noticing glimpses of party odds and ends and inspiring signs, and am warmly greeted by one who feels like an old friend… Marcie has that way of making people feel comfortable, welcomed, and known. So we settle in, coffee cups in hand, sunshine pouring in, and hearts ready for warm connection.
Marcie shares, “I’ve been [in Midland] for 15 years and done many great things here. But [it was] Karen Murphy who encouraged me to use my loss experience as a catalyst to bring something special to our community. She said, ‘We’re gonna do this; you’re gonna take it and go,’ and that’s what we did. We partnered with the Strosacker Foundation, Midland Area Community Foundation, and so many more foundations and friends in our community to make Miracle Field a reality. There are no resources like this anywhere in Northern Michigan. The closest Miracle Field is Bridgeport, and Southwest of us is Delta Township in Lansing. And so we have kids joining us from all over to enjoy this offering.” Her excitement and pride at the accomplishment of this Miracle Field beam through in her enthusiasm.
Marcella Post has a Bachelor’s and Master’s from CMU (both in Parks and Recreation Administration). She’s worked for the DNR, the Parade Company in Detroit, Livonia Parks and Recreation, Clare Parks and Recreation, and Midland Parks and Recreation. Even with an impressive resume, her most significant accomplishments and sources of purpose are her husband, Jon, and two sons, Wesley (14) and Callen (3). Marcie has known both great joy and tremendous loss. In 2018 Marcie and Jon had a beautiful son they named Julian. Unfortunately, Julian was born with both Down Syndrome and a very rare condition called Congenital Lymphatic Dysplasia. Julian lived only about three months.
“We miss him every day!” Marcie expresses as tears fill both of our eyes.
“It was a horrible, horrific story, but something beautiful came from it. I was slightly older, and Julian was born with Down Syndrome. We had no idea; we had what they call a “birthday diagnosis.” So we went to Covenant, and the doctor said, ‘You need to go to Ann Arbor; don’t go home, just go!’ Of course, we were scared and didn’t understand that something was happening. We didn’t even realize anything was wrong, but from the moment we walked through the doors at U of M, they were ready for us, which sparked fear. So I’m like, okay, so what? It’s just Down syndrome, right? But something else was wrong, and they couldn’t determine it. We were there for 11 weeks, and halfway through, they started deep diving [with tests] to determine what this was. It turns out Julian was born without a lymph system. So he didn’t have a way to take the fluid off his body. So he would bloat, and then they would hit him with diuretics and caffeine to relieve that. Sadly, it was a vicious cycle and got to a point where we couldn’t fix it.
“Julian was born three days after World Down Syndrome Day, the 24st of March, and passed only three months later. So that’s why we wear mismatched socks on that day to represent the chromosomes. And why we deeply desire to make his short life matter. To this day, when our nurses fly over Midland during a Life Flight, they will Snapchat me and ask how I am doing… this community is so beautiful…. and we were so cared for through such a challenging season.”
Deeply moved, I say, wow, Marcie, I am so sorry… thank you for vulnerably sharing these tender parts of your story with us. But, even more, thank you for showing us how to take our most painful experiences and find a way to make something meaningful out of the tragedies. It is inspiring to hear that this gave you the fortitude to develop something transformative for people who often get overlooked and marginalized because we haven’t had the infrastructure to provide accessibility. You are making such a difference, and Julian will not be forgotten.
Please tell us more about how we as a community can support Miracle Field and what you hope people will experience there.
“With a simple click of a button on the internet, The Midland County United Way partnered with us and host all our volunteer opportunities so that you can pick one or all Saturdays. The experience depends on how many teams we have; the experience is anywhere from two to four hours for the very max. We allow community members as young as 13 to volunteer to be ‘buddies’ to the athletes of the Middle of the Mitt Miracle League athletes.
“I ask that you come excited. I’ll give you a T-shirt and a quick video to ensure you understand the purpose. Sometimes people come with some fear and apprehension, but we help them feel comfortable and empowered to make it fun for the players.
Safety is the most important thing. I have some athletes that will need all sorts of assistance, some auditory needs we will help take care of when we’re on the field, and some athletes who just want somebody to stand there and cheer for them.
Whether you’re coming because you need the hours, because your friends are coming, or because you want to come, for whatever reason, you will be inspired by how excited these kids are. And it’s not just the kids; it is adults, too, right? My youngest athlete is 4, and my oldest is 71.”
“Doug Dean!” I exclaim with gleeful recognition. I can’t resist interjecting how Doug is “Midland’s friend,” and we all love him!
Marcie laughs, agrees, and says, “I don’t know that Doug ever had the opportunity [before] to play baseball. I also have a mother whose daughter is 34 and in a wheelchair and nonverbal. But her Mom has told me time and time again that Megan knows when it’s game day; she signs that she is excited and ramped up because she knows it will be a good day.
“So it’s an opportunity for you to get involved, but then you don’t realize that that feeling will come over you. I don’t even know how to explain or define what that feels like. Right? Seeing a kid do something he’s never had the opportunity to do before is incredible. To allow parents of these kids to sit in the stands, watching and cheering on their kid while volunteers assist their athlete. . . I want them all to have this experience.
So just jump online and register. It’s so easy.”
Excited and ready to roll up my sleeves and join, I say, “I love how this helps connect the community and gives us a way to support the athletes. How do you want the athletes to feel here?”
“Like they’re at home? Right? This is a safe space made for them. Miracle Field was made FOR them. So as Pump-Up music is playing and the crowds are cheering FOR THEM, I want them to know they matter and are celebrated.”
This all sounds so wonderful, Marcie! Another thing that caught my attention is that you are also a scholarship creator and have started a scholarship in honor of Julian: I know our readers would love to hear more about this too.
“Our scholarship is to support Miracle Field athlete registration. I don’t want that to be cost-prohibitive at all. We learned quickly that hospital bills for kids with disabilities are astronomical. I couldn’t even begin to tell you how much it cost for Julian to get the needed care. When Julian passed away, people kept giving us money, which was so generous, but we wanted to steward it well. So we decided to put it away and see what we could do with it. We started this scholarship fund because I have kids who receive care from DeVos, the University of Michigan, etc.! That is a lot of driving and transportation costs. I never want the Miracle Field costs to be a barrier to play. And I will never tell a kid no. This scholarship is there for those who need it and gives athletes a place to celebrate Julian and everything we do.
It’s incredible how that little kid has impacted so many people in our community and statewide.”
Incredible, indeed, Marcie. Truly remarkable.
Okay, last question, I love to hear the answers to this one….What are you excited about next?
“We’re going to add some additional features to the playground area. But what I’m most excited about is this. . . I hate to call it a vibe, but, like, this vibe, right? Like this heartbeat between Iris [Mehler], Karen [Murphy], and me and so many more in this push towards accessibility and inclusivity that we’ve got going on with the Grove Park restrooms and beyond to create spaces for people who want to come to enjoy recreation just like everybody else.
“Some of the playground equipment will respond to the kids’ needs, whether it’s vibration and a roller or a cozy cocoon that keeps an autistic child a little bit more sheltered & secure. I want people to recognize that we see and hear them and respond to their unique needs. It feels good to make things more inclusive. And everything we do, we’re thinking about everybody, even Grandma. Who might want to play with her kiddos? So how do we make that all happen within our community?
“Until you realize the physical need, you don’t think about it, right? I, too, am still learning. For example, last summer was so hot. And one thing I learned about Down Syndrome kids in the hospital is that they overheat quickly. And so we bought Mister fans to keep our athletes cool. We don’t do a program in the dead of the summer afternoon because the heat is too intense. Many of the medications our athletes need can cause increased sensitivity to temperatures, so I have to think so much differently about every detail. It can be challenging, but I never want to exclude anybody. With time, we are identifying ways to improve this whole experience for everyone.”
I love it when we can bring things to life, even when it’s tough and even when there are a lot of details to consider. It takes a whole next level of love to like you were saying, pay attention to everything down to the details of temperature and time of day.
“Yes, but if I’m thinking about Bennett, Megan, Nathan, or Doug….; when we put a face to it, right? When we make it personal, it just changes the whole narrative. It is terrible, but it’s just how we are, I think. Out of sight, out of mind. But it’s been great so far, and I can’t wait to see the numbers grow. I wish I had more time, and I wish I had more of myself to go around and do more. But I’ve got some great staff, and they’re helping push these things forward, and it helps me make sure Julian is not forgotten.”
Yeah. I love that; thank you for sharing your story. I know it can sometimes feel so personal, but as you said, putting a face on and giving humanity to these projects is vital. It helps us participate in them differently than just an idea or a good concept. Thank you for your willingness to give your pain purpose to help to honor Julian and your story and be a source of healing & inspiration for the rest of us. Your work through Midland Parks and Recreation, along with the Midland Area Community Foundation, to bring the Middle of the Mitt Miracle League to Central Park is an incredible asset for our community and will bring so much joy to everyone who participates.
Together, Forward, Bold… we go.