Co-Founder / President / CEO
Susan Graham has been involved with Special Needs baseball since 2014, when she and her husband, Mike Gomez, formed a Challenger league within the local youth baseball program. It all started with a family day at the ballpark. Their daughter, Isabella, was practicing for T-ball and their son, who has Down Syndrome, walked over to home plate, picked up a ball and placed it on the tee. “We all stood their stunned and watching. Then he picked up the bat, swung and knocked the ball off and ran to 3rd base. He was just three and had only been walking for a while, but had been watching his sister and decided he wanted to try.” “It was at that moment we knew we needed a special league where he could play.” They continued as a Challenger League for six years and then the lockdowns happened. “We had really outgrown the fields we were sharing and realized we needed a more adaptive facility for our families. Cynthia and I decided to use the down time to form our own 501(c)(3) non-profit so we could take the whole endeavor to the next step.” They realized that their kids needed more than just baseball. They need access to many programs, not just sports, but also enrichment, in a place built specifically for them. They needed a community center. Susan has always been a meticulous numbers person with a wide streak of Strategic Planning skills. Her gifts continue to serve our organization on so many levels and, being a parent with a disabled child, gives her a deeper insight that is helpful. Best of all, her son, Mikey, continues to inspire everyone he meets.
Ron Krajniak retired early from a successful career in international logistics to care for his son, Ben, who is now 20 years old and was born with Cerebral Palsy. He served as Global Vice President of Operations Support and then Vice President and General Manager for the Americas in two large international logictics companies. His skills in both diplomacy and logistics, serve him well as Board Chair. His passion for brainstorming ideas and skills in the area of research, statistics, and data are a good fit for the organization. From the beginning, he was excited about Playmaker's overriding desire to incorporate the Special Needs community more effectively into the mainstream of society. We are united in our belief that these children and adults are most often underestimated and that the potential for more integration and achievement is very real.
Our Co-Founder, President/CEO is a California native and longtime Long Beach resident. With a deep belief that all God’s children are perfect, she was an easy recruit when her accountant’s Downs son wanted to play baseball. They needed people to volunteer, coach, recruit and manage the league. She gladly raised her hand and a beautiful new adventure began. Cynthia ran an interior design firm for over forty years which requires a balance of right and left brain sensibilities. You need a strong, structural sense of what makes a business run efficiently and the creativity to design workable solutions to every challenge. Her vision of the Playmakers Village is so vivid she swears she can walk through it in her mind’s eye and has vowed to make it her life’s passion. In the meantime, you’ll find her at almost every session learning about our kids, who they are and what they need. “That’s how we keep our programs on track. And, I love the beautiful spirit and determination these kids show every day. They motivate me.” “It is said that ‘gratitude is the only real path to happiness’ and I’m so thankful for this project. It is the gift that continues to introduce us to lovely new people, resources and possibilities.” Our Playmakers Village will fill a giant hole of need for this community and we won’t stop until Opening Day.
Dedication. Expertise. Passion.