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Jacob Herda makes a Miracle League difference

Lakeshore teen earns Youth in Philanthropy award, but work remains

Sometimes, really good things happen to really good people.

Jacob Herda, 15, is one of those really good people.

Receiving the Youth in Philanthropy Award at last Friday’s National Philanthropy Day northeast Wisconsin awards luncheon in Green Bay, hosted by the Association of Fundraising Professionals, is the really good thing.

Jacob was nominated by Nancy Heykes, Goodwill NCW’s VP of Development, for his amazing role in bringing a Miracle League baseball field to Manitowoc.

“Jacob Herda experienced a stroke before birth which has limited his vision, speech, mobility and other development — yet he has been one of the most visible fundraisers for the Miracle League of the Lakeshore’s capital campaign to build a baseball field for kids like himself,” Nancy wrote in her nomination last year.

“Through meeting participation, presentations to groups, TV and radio interviews and even YouTube videos, his enthusiasm for getting ‘his’ field built has made the life-changing possibilities of Miracle League participation visible to so many in the Lakeshore area.”

A program of Goodwill NCW, the Miracle League of the Lakeshore facility opened in June 2014, with more than 50 players.

The Miracle League of the Fox Cities, also a Goodwill NCW program, began on-field operation in 2010, and last year served more than 200 players.

Jacob’s work in building community and philanthropic support for the Lakeshore’s Miracle League field was nothing short of amazing, and focused on his abilities, not his challenges. He did radio and TV interviews, YouTube videos, and public speaking with service and business organizations.

And, yes, he appointed himself “President” of the Miracle League of the Lakeshore, and has been unafraid to use that position to ask for financial backing.

Jacob’s acceptance speech Friday at the Tundra Lodge was among the highlights of the event, and earned a standing ovation from the audience of nonprofit and fundraising professionals, a group that included his parents (Robb and Nicole); other family members; Laura Ziemer, commissioner of the Lakeshore Miracle League organization; Nancy Heykes and Bob Pedersen, Goodwill NCW’s president and CEO.

“Laura is the commissioner, but as president, I talk for the players and people on the field,” Jacob said. “I stand for them, because this is our field and our playground.

“Not all the kids in our league can talk, but I can speak when I’m at meetings. We talked to everyone — businesses, service clubs, schools, and churches raising money for our field. Even family and friends donated money and help.

“I want them to know about my friends and our league. This year, we got play baseball in Manitowoc on our field! People we talked to, who helped donate, saw our field of dreams. They could see what we talked about in real life! they could see how everyone can make a difference.”

Jacob, with an assist from his mom, Nicole, told the crowd that while he was thrilled with what’s happened to date, his work is far from finished.

“The field is paid for, but we are still working toward a playground that is accessible,” he said. “Right now, I can’t play on the playground because my wheelchair can’t climb ladders or stairs.

“We still have $60,000 to raise, but I’m not going to give up! We are going to keep talking to people and fundraising until all the kids can use the playground.

“It’s not just about other people donating, it’s about putting our time, energy and money into our projects that we do. I feel pretty blessed when I get to put money I earned myself into the Miracle League of the Lakeshore.”

We feel pretty blessed to have Jacob on our side, too.

Good things happen to all of us because of good people like him.

Thanks, Jacob. We’re proud to be on your team.

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