By Martie Thompson
The St. Johns County community came together on Saturday, April 30 to celebrate the opening of the Field of Dreams Playground. In attendance were multiple county commissioners, Sheriff Rob Hardwick and representatives from St. Johns County Parks and Rec, the NW Tower Committee and the Cunningham Creek Elementary PTO. But according to George Vancore, one of the five founding fathers of Field of Dreams baseball, the most important attendees were the Field of Dreams baseball players and their buddies, who took time between games on this Saturday morning to celebrate the playground’s opening.
“I was so happy to see these kids going from playing baseball to then going over to play on the new playground,” Vancore said.
It’s important to note that no tax dollars were spent to build and outfit the park. All the money was raised by the community and the county was instrumental in coordinating bids and getting the work done. According to Vancore, it was a true community effort.
“After about the fifth year of playing Field of Dreams baseball, we realized we were not only covering our costs but we had a surplus, since ‘all things are free at Field of Dreams’ and people regularly make donations,” Vancore said. “So we decided to go ‘beyond the white lines’ and build a playground for children with special needs.”
During his opening remarks, Vancore described some of the unique donations that contributed to the $350,000 cost of building the playground — from the 10-year-old boy who resold used golf balls on the Julington Creek Plantation golf course to his own granddaughter, who donated money she had received for good grades to the cause.
At the Field of Dreams Playground at Aberdeen Park, all children have the opportunity to play regardless of their physical abilities. This is St. Johns County Parks and Recreation’s first-ever all-inclusive playground, which is customized with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) accessible play. It includes an all-inclusive whirl, ADA swings, a sensory dome, musical pieces, and cantata chimes for sound. The play areas are wheelchair-accessible, with wide paths and ramps. The playground is surrounded by mature trees and offers shaded areas and a pavilion nearby. Children of all abilities can experience creative play through motion, sensory, and socialization that encourages everyone to come together.
The all-inclusive playground was made possible thanks to the collaboration of St. Johns County Parks and Recreation, Northwest Tower Committee, the Field of Dreams Board of Directors, members of the Creeks Athletics Association, parents, coaches, and volunteers.
Photo courtesy Ericka Brandt