We had the good fortune of connecting with Cassandra Switalski and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Cassandra, we’d love to start by asking you about lessons learned. Is there a lesson you can share with us?
The most important lesson I’ve learned is to never underestimate yourself. You won’t learn your true potential and capacity to succeed if you shy away from tasks or steps that seem daunting or out of reach. Each challenge, whether minor or extreme, is an opportunity to learn and advance your capabilities. Even failures or less than ideal outcomes lead to eventual improvement.
Can you give our readers an introduction to your business? Maybe you can share a bit about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
The Miracle League of Arizona is a nonprofit in North Scottsdale that offers adaptive baseball for individuals with special needs. We had a fully accessible stadium built just for our families that includes a baseball diamond on rubberized turf for ease of maneuverability, enlarged dugouts and walking areas, care-giver restrooms, a concession stand, and even batting cages and an adaptive playground. We also have a sound system and a recently added video board so our players get to have their own walk up song played and see their name and picture up on a big screen, just like at Chase Field. Players also get paired up with a one-on-one volunteer we call a buddy to offer everything from hand over hand assistance to encouragement and friendship for all. We strive for each player to achieve success, inclusion, and fun when they enter our facility. Best of all, it’s free for participants. Our biggest challenge over the years has simply been awareness, but it is something we are making an effort to improve. We want families with individuals with special needs to know we’re here as a resource. There’s no cost, we have amazing volunteers that help games run, and parents and care givers get the chance to connect with each other. For those seeking volunteer opportunities, we’re a great option because we are hands-on, and volunteers and players get to connect through the universal language of play. We anticipate that play make look a little different in the months ahead given the virus pandemic, but like many other organizations we’re already pivoting plans so we can continue to serve our special families.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Visitor outings would obviously be a little different right now, given the health pandemic, but in an ideal world I definitely have some favorite spots that would top my list for recommendations. The Desert Botanical Garden for one, is a great place to see and learn about the beautiful plants in our desert landscape. The Garden also frequently hosts shows and various art installations for day and evening options. For some physical activity, Piestewa Peak is one of my favorite hikes in Phoenix. It’s only slightly over 2 miles long but has a rapid incline in elevation and some really beautiful views at the top, particularly around sunrise or sunset. La Grande Orange is also a favorite spot of mine, a little bohemian grocer, café, pizzeria, bakery, and gift shop all in one. Lastly, if I’m still planning for a perfect situation, a trip downtown for a Science Center visit, baseball game at Chase Field, and an evening show at a downtown venue would make a visitor’s stay complete.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I am well aware that I would not be where I am today, had it not been for the support and encouragement of others along the way. I’d like to thank the strong leaders of the organization that I’ve worked with closely over the years. Frank Udvare, Dan Haren, Sherry Roueche, Al Maag, and Philip Welp all saw the potential in me to become a leader within my organization and community, and have supported me on my path. I’d also like to thank the 300+ families with special needs that my organization serves. Their smiles and stories are what fuels my passion and also what makes this job so rewarding. And last but not least, I’d like to thank my family. For the unwavering support and love, and also the daily reminder to be grateful for all that I have been given. In particular I’d like to dedicate this story to my brother Jeff who recently passed away. He was born with severe physical limitations, but was always the first to smile and tease, and I would go to great lengths to get a laugh out of him. May he be a reminder to us all not to take life too seriously, especially when it comes to our own limitations.
Linkedin: Miracle League of Arizona
Youtube: Miracle League of Arizona MLAZ
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