Miracle League baseball community mourns one of its own

Joel Parks had a developmental delay that prevented the 30-year-old from being able to live on his own, so he lived in a group home. Through services provided by the local community and the state of Florida, Joel was being taken care of.

Those who worked with him said state funding had been secured to make sure his care continued in the event his previous caregiver, his grandmother, passed away.

Despite that, police say Joel's grandmother, Lillian Parks gave him a lethal dose of medication, ending his life because she feared no one would look after him when she was gone.

Those who knew Joel are remembering his joyful personality and love for baseball, wondering why his life was taken so soon.

"On the field, he was probably, when you saw, him the happiest. He always had a smile on his face," said Jordan Jones, the board chair of the Miracle League of Manasota.

According to Jones, Joel lived his life to the fullest and the Miracle League of Manasota helped him stand out.

"What was great about Joel was, you always saw him getting progressively better as an athlete and I think he knew that, as well," said Jones.

On Saturday, Joel should have been playing at the Miracle League Field, but Bradenton police said his grandmother had checked him out of his group home instead.

One day later, his sister found his lifeless body at his grandmother's Bradenton apartment.

Police took Lillian Parks to a medical facility for evaluation and treatment. Wednesday, the 87-year-old was charged with second-degree murder.

"I think our whole entire community has been shook by this. We know he may be in a better place, but it's just not something anybody saw coming," said Jones. 

While the details of this case continue to be revealed, officials hope to spread the word about services available to adults with disabilities and those who care for them.

Tom Waters, the president and CEO of Southwest Easter Seals said help is available through Florida's Agency for Persons with Disabilities, but it's important for guardians to apply for assistance before they become overwhelmed.

And for anyone feeling overwhelmed, services through other agencies may be available right away. Call 211 to connect to the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay, which maintains a database of more than 3,000 local, state, and federal resources.

For information about the Agency for Persons with Disabilities, visit http://apd.myflorida.com/customers/waitlist/.