Few can imagine the challenges of nurturing a child who suffers from a physical or mental disability. The simplest activities like enjoying an outdoor playground or even an athletic activity can be daunting.
Mike Klenotich, vice president of the Brevard Field of Dreams organization, has seen these challenges firsthand. Diagnosed with cerebral palsy, his daughter Brittany nonetheless looked forward to playing in weekly baseball games at a Palm Bay field until about two years ago when it became unmanageable. “Every time she would have to use the restroom, I would have to carry her,” Klenotich said, adding the field was not friendly to her walker. “By the time we would get back, she had missed the inning.”
As the Field of Dreams moves towards realization, he commented, “It’s not just a dream anymore, it’s something that’s being recognized by the community.” The Census Bureau estimates there were about 5,400 disabled persons under age 18 in Brevard County in 2009 and thousands more in adjoining counties. Those are young people who can benefit from being outside a clinical setting, according to Leslie Roth, executive director of Space Coast Early Intervention Center. “Play and activity and being out in the air – it’s good for every kid,” she said.
The mission put forth by community and business leaders to build a sports park that caters to the needs of children with disabilities has been a long process. Partners like W&J Construction, donated their time, expenses and leadership, and Brevard County Commissioner Robin Fisher lobbied for more than two years to fund the five-acre sporting complex at West Melbourne Community Park. The field will feature rubberized playing surfaces for baseball, soccer and basketball.
Special People Helping Special People
Fisher commented, “I believe we achieve our best when we work collaboratively for the good of our entire community. It makes me extremely satisfied to know that this park is being made possible by public/private partnerships and will help fill a gap for this special population. As a county, we’ve done a great job creating a world-class parks system and, while they are ADA compliant, there isn’t one park in our system that is equipped to specifically address the needs of persons with disabilities.”
Brevard Field of Dreams will cost an estimated $4.2 million, but much of the money is either in-hand through state grants, corporate contributions or committed through private donors. Many consider it a natural complement to Promise in Brevard, less than two miles down the road. Promise in Brevard is an all-inclusive residential/vocational training community providing independent living and on-site vocational training and job opportunities for individuals with varying levels of ability.
The project began in the heart of Palm Bay resident Jim Tapp, founder, president and board chairman of Brevard Field of Dreams. “It is something that is greatly needed and has been for a long time,” said Tapp. “This will be the first time in their lives that many of these kids will have the opportunity to enjoy themselves in a sports venue.”
Nick Witek, CEO of W&J, commented, “We are honored to have played a role in providing this special facility for people of all ages. It will be an added reason to come to Brevard County to take advantage of the sporting opportunities it provides. This is really a case of ‘If you build it, they will come.’”