Making the “Field of Dreams” a Reality for Special Needs Children of all Ages

 

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By Raven West

In the classic 1989 movie “Field of Dreams”, Ray (Kevin Costner) hears a mysterious voice telling him “If you build it, he will come.” Without knowing who the “he” was, Ray became obsessed with building the “it”; a baseball diamond, in the middle of an Ohio cornfield.

The “he” was the ghost of Ray’s father who, along with other baseball players’ ghosts came out of the cornfield to play ball. For Ray, playing ball with his dad was the realization of a long lost dream.

While the movie was a fantasy, there are times when a real life experience can result in real life inspiration and an obsession that will someday result in a real life “Field of Dreams”.

Such was the case with Rick Pena, a Camarillo real estate agent, whose life was forever changed by an HBO series.

“I was watching an episode of “Real Sports with Bryant Gunbel” on HBO that profiled The Miracle League,” Pena explained. “The organization provides a space and resources for children with mental and physical challenges to play baseball. From the moment I saw the program, I knew this was something I just had to do. But in 2012 I was single guy and I knew there was no way I could do this on my own at the time, but I loved the organization and the idea stuck with me for years.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fortunately for Rick, he didn’t have to wait long to find the perfect partner to help him realize his dream. In 2016 he married Jodie and a month after they said “I do”, they said, “Let’s do it!”

“When you see the HBO video, it touches your heart,” Jodie said. “There absolutely needs to be a baseball field for the special needs individuals in Ventura County,” Jodie said. “I’m amazed that we have to go through all of this just to get it started. I really feel the Miracle League should have been part of this community years ago.

Rick and Jodie Pena

Jodie further lamented, “We shouldn’t have to fight to get this done. We shouldn’t have to beg for money to get this done. We have, I don’t know how many baseball fields in Camarillo, and not one of them is ADA accessible, not one. Why? These kids want to play baseball as badly as anyone else does. Why aren’t they being included?  They have a challenger league where some of them can play, but they’re playing on a regular dirt and grass field. It’s not making the playing field so that everyone is included.”

“The Miracle League field is rubberized synthetic turf so it’s bouncy and flat,” Rick explained. “And, of course, there’s no dirt or grass for the kids who have issues with allergies. And for kids with wheelchairs and walkers, it’s accessible.”

 “For sure, it’s not your typical baseball game,” Jodie added. “It’s not competitive which is why baseball lends itself to be such a perfect sport. It’s all about the individual. It’s the walking up to the plate because they heard their name over the loud speaker. They hear the crowd, not just their parents, shouting their name and cheering them every step, every swing, hit or miss.

They get to hit the ball. They get to run around the bases, anyway they can! Soccer, football even basketball is a bundle of people, there is very little individual aspect to theses sports. With baseball, all you have to do is get up to the plate and you’re the star for five minutes and that’s one of the reasons that I believe baseball works so well for this.”

The Miracle League of the 805 is for everyone with mental or physical disabilities of all ages – everyone can come and play from the age of 3 or 4 and up. In the Visalia American League they have a player who is 74! This is the special needs community and it serves all of them regardless of their disability and regardless of their age. This is an activity that they get to be part of a team. They get to wear a jersey, they get to make friends, build their self confidence they’re being included in something Inclusion is a huge part of the Miracle League – they get to be like everyone else.”

The mission of the Miracle League it to teach understanding and inclusion by allowing children from the community to interact and build lifelong bonds with special needs children in ways that they might not otherwise have the opportunity to. Additionally, no child will ever be turned away due to their families’ inability to pay. Financial aid will be made available every season to cover any and all costs for players that they are unable to cover.

Rick and Jodie know it’ll be awhile before they reach their ultimate goal of a full league and the task won’t be an easy one. Nationwide, there have been over 300 Miracle Leagues started, but only 65 have been completed. “Many people get excited and start one, but it’s a very hard organization from start to finish.  

 “We’ll probably start with 40 or 50 players and grow into a full weekend of games. If we get 300 kids, we’ll have a Saturday and a Sunday full of playing. Eventually the teams will probably have about 12 to 15 kids on each team.”

At the moment, all they have is an unused playing area at Pleasant Valley School of Engineering and Arts, 700 Temple Ave., the former Los Altos Middle School and very enthusiastic volunteers. 

“We have an advisory board of 14 people with eight board of directors who will organize the various committees; coaches, teen moms; and we’ll raise money for insurance and for registration so that no one has to pay to play.

The Miracle League of the 805 is hoping a major Ventura County based corporation or celebrity will be interested in having their name displayed on the Camarillo “Field of Dreams”, but Rick’s not that worried about raising money.

“If we find someone really excited about this project who wants to make a major donation, say $500,000 or more, we’ll name the field after them but if we have to do it in $1,000 increments, we’ll do it that way, it will just take a bit longer.”

Being a sponsor for the Miracle League of the 805 isn’t only about seeing your name, or your corporation’s name on a building – it’s about the faces of the kids, their parents and the fans that come to watch a tiny miracle come to life. It’s a small moment in time when reality takes a back seat and making what was once impossible – come true! 

“We are offering building sponsorship opportunities, if they want to put their name on the bleachers, they can donate the bleachers and have their name on the bleachers (on the back were people will see it, not on the actual seats!)

“You can put your name on the dugouts, on the scoreboard, on the mascot, there are nearly hundreds of ways for our community to put their names on this project and become part of a legacy that will live on for many years. It’s also great exposure for a business – not only on the days of the Miracle League games, but in all of the other activities the field will be used for during the off-season. Because Camarillo is so centrally located, it’s ideal to host major events such as the Special Olympics.  We’re not building this just for our League; we’re building it for the entire community.”

Even though Ventura County is the major location, Rick and Jodie we’ll be reaching out nationwide for donations; major league baseball is a huge supporter, naturally, to other foundations and grants toward their ultimate goal of $800,000.

Everyone who is involved with the Miracle League knows they’re donation, dedication and commitment is so much more than just writing a check. It’s about being part of something great – experiencing exactly what your donation is accomplishing – brick by brick – one base, one bat, one ball at a time.

The Miracle League of the 805 – A Field of Dreams realized in Camarillo – Together we will all build it, and everyone will come!

Next fund raiser will be
February 7, 2019
Las Poses Country Club
955 Fairway Drive, Camarillo

To Donate, Sponsor or Volunteer, contact Rick or Jodie Pena
(805) 443-9539

Visit: The Miracle League of the 805
Rick and Jodie Pena

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Raven West is a free-lance writer and published author who has lived in Ventura County for more than twenty years. She has an extensive knowledge of local wineries from Thousand Oaks to Ojai and will be covering special events which take place at the tasting rooms throughout the year.
Named in the TOP 50 Authors by Authorsdb.com


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