Starting this fall, children with disabilities will have a place to play baseball in Ascension Parish. Leadership Ascension’s Team of Dreams spent the past year raising $722,000 and forging major partnerships to construct the first all abilities baseball field in the parish.
Demolition of the existing park will begin on April 24, and construction for the new all abilities field is scheduled to begin on May 15. It will take an estimated 90 days to construct the first phase of the park, which includes the field and dugouts.
“Providing the Ascension community with this field is a dream come true for our team," said Erica Page, Team of Dreams member and spokesperson. "We wouldn’t be able to make this happen without our generous sponsors and donors. Every child dreams of being part of a team. Our team has stayed focused on our vision to make that a reality for Ascension Parish. We are over the moon to begin construction on phase one of the project, which will include everything within the field fence line.”
The field will be located on Irma Boulevard in Gonzales, between the National Guard and the Council on Aging. The current field is being converted into an ADA compliant baseball park for the children of Ascension Parish with special needs, allowing an opportunity for children with all abilities to enjoy America’s favorite pastime, be part of a team, and allow the children and their families to make lasting memories in a way they may have never dreamed possible.
The property is owned by the parish government and maintained by the City of Gonzales. It required a cooperative agreement between the parish, the city and the Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation, who is building the field.
“We are thrilled to support Leadership Ascension’s Team of Dreams to provide a safe place for youth to play, learn and grow," said Steve Salem, President/CEO of the Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation. “We can’t wait to see the kids and local community in Gonzales and Ascension Parish benefit from the positive impact of this project both on and off the field.”
The Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation teams up with communities and organizations across the country to build safe places for at-risk youth. They build baseball fields, multipurpose parks and adaptive fields for kids with special needs. Their commitment to Ascension Parish will go beyond building an all abilities field. The foundation will continue to support youth programs in the parish for years to come.
Once construction is completed, the City of Gonzales will both maintain the facility and oversee league development and play, which will be open to all children with special needs in Ascension Parish and the surrounding communities.
“The City is so excited about the opportunity this new all abilities field will bring to the special needs children in our community. Those kids have always been near and dear to me and my wife, Betty,” said Mayor Barney Arceneaux. ”All of us at the City want to thank those who have donated their time, expertise and money and a special thanks to Erica and this wonderful Leadership Ascension team who made this possible!”
Funding for phase one of the project comes from a variety of business and personal donors. The major contributors are Blue Cross Blue Shield with $350,000; Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation with $150,000; Ascension Parish Government with $50,000; BASF with $35,000; Nutrien with $30,000; DuPont with $30,000; Shell Chemical with $7,500; Pelican State Credit Union with $5,000; Linde with $5,000; and Nova Chemical with $5,000.
In addition, several area businesses have contributed valuable time and expertise through in-kind donations to make construction possible. They are Quality Engineering and Surveying, Domain Architecture, Stuart Construction, Optimize EGS, The Burton Group and Sally and Billy Aguillard of BJM Construction.
Blue Cross Blue Shield of Louisiana’s sizable donation allowed the project to move to construction. "The Blue Cross Blue Shield Foundation of Louisiana is extremely proud to support the Team of Dreams Adaptive Field. Led by Leadership Ascension and in partnership with the Cal Ripken, Sr. Foundation this space will give opportunities for children of all abilities to play and participate in team sports. We are always looking to support coalitions of community leaders as they work to improve the health of kids and families across their area. Through this project for a specially designed field in Gonzales, we look forward to seeing children and families putting the new space to great use once our state deems it safe to do so after the COVID-19 pandemic," said Michael Tipton, President of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana Foundation.
While construction for the field is assured, there are still opportunities to partner for phase two of the project: construction of concessions building, ADA restrooms, covered bleachers, grand entryway and scoreboard. Phase two will complete the facility in entirety. The Team of Dreams is still accepting donations online via PayPal or by contacting TeamofDreams@gmail.com.
Individuals, families, and businesses also have an opportunity to leave a lasting mark on this field by purchasing a personalized legacy brick, https://www.fundraisingbrick.com/online-orders/teamofdreams. Custom bricks begin at $75 and include three lines of text.
More information about the project can also be found on the project Facebook page, www.facebook.com/TeamofDreams2019/. Visit www.ripkenfoundation.org/ for more information about the Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation.