Adaptive Baseball Field & Recreation Park.
We’ve been involved with the local baseball program for Special Needs kids from the age of 4 to 22 since 2015. We began operating under the umbrella of our local baseball league and were the first such program in our city. We had virtually no experience in running such an operation but, through trial and error, we learned and adapted quickly. The program grew from nine children the first season to as many as SIXTY with 28 volunteers from the community. We also recruited the ten-to-twelve-year-old ‘typical’ teams to buddy with our players, one on one. The results were nothing less than spectacular. With that success, came the realization that we had outgrown the fields that were offered to us. And, since these fields and dugouts weren’t equipped to accommodate the mobility impaired or children with other special needs, we began looking for a place to build our own field. It wasn’t long after we began our research that we realized there was a stunning lack of recreational areas for families with Special Needs children to safely gather and spend a few hours or the whole day. They need much more than a baseball field, but we realized we’d have to break out on our own to accomplish this goal. We discovered and joined an international organization that advises groups in exactly this type of adventure. More research revealed that there were no such recreational parks anywhere in Southern California. It struck us that every community should already have one if not several. In Long Beach, there are ten dedicated dog parks but not one square foot of space, outside of schools, for the sole purpose of serving this special group. Since 6.7% of the American population is described as ‘having at least one disability,’ that means in Long Beach ALONE, over twenty thousand children would potentially be served. We project that our park will pull families from about a 40-mile radius and that the time is right to step up and address this disparity. We would love to serve as a beacon for other communities to follow. Our long-term vision includes: a) a baseball field with ADA dugouts and a rubberized surface for the mobility impaired, bases and the pitcher’s mound are not raised and the entire field is fenced for the security and safety of our children. b) a multi-purpose structure that would include a: 1. A gym for dances, basketball practice & games, fundraisers, and much more. 2. Flex space of about (3,000 SF) that could be used for various sizes of groups for meetings, art/craft and music groups/classes, etc. 3. A commercial kitchen to accommodate the dances and fundraisers, as well as to train our teen members, vocationally, as chefs and bakers. 4. Snack shacks to serve light meals and refreshments to families. 5. Restrooms, locker rooms and showers. c) a water splash pad area with squirting sprays and fountains run on an underground recycled water system. d) a playground filled with specially designed, adaptive equipment that helps develop strength and agility. These will be grouped by ability level and age. It will also include some ‘cross-over’ features for high performing kids and typical family members. e)Surrounding all these areas will be shaded benches, picnic tables and areas where families can congregate and enjoy leisurely time and meals together. We realize this is ambitious, but, frankly, the drive to finally accommodate this demographic has to start somewhere. It’s a well-worn phrase because it’s true- ‘If not now, when? If not us, then who?’ We have the experience to run such a program and are happy to take on the challenge of establishing and building it on behalf of our special kids. Our biggest initial hurdle is finding a piece of land. We would love to acquire about four acres so we could build elements as money is available but assure the community that all the features of our park will be in one location. We will raise money through many channels: Fundraising events, drives (including school, scout, & church groups who have offered their help), private individuals-who have provided much of our seed money, as well as grants and foundations. We will also continue to solicit donations and grants to cover the balance of our costs. That said, we’d love to offer our fields and gym to Special Olympics and Disabled Veteran groups at no charge when they would be otherwise unused. Although the main objective is a safe, recreation area suited to the special needs children and their families in our community, we’d love to incorporate the job training of participating teens to be an integral part in the running of our park through time. We know they can be successful as: grounds keepers, janitorial staff, snack shacks and kitchen help, greeting guests at the entrance and being ambassadors in general to our guests. We know through other organizations, that the state often provides salaries for special needs employees. BCML would provide training and management by volunteer adults. We have a long road ahead, but this dream has been so guided and inspired that the momentum is palpable. Thank you for sharing our dream. To help make our dream a reality, please visit our "How to Donate" page.