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NJ budget includes $400K to help finish Toms River park for people with disabilities
Asbury Park Press - 6/29/2021
TOMS RIVER - Last week was a great one for Christian Kane and his plan to build a playground and ballfields for children and adults with disabilities.
The donations flowed in: $5,000 from local lawyer Peter Van Dyke; $2,000 from sales of Toms River Brewing's "Toddfather" beer, brewed in partnership with local baseball legend Todd Frazier; a $17,000 grant from the Ocean County Health Department to build a community garden at the site.
And, of course, the biggest donation of all was the $400,000 included in New Jersey's budget to help finish construction of the park.
Kane received the news from Councilman Terrance Turnbach, after Gov. Phil Murphy called to tell Turnbach the funds were included in the state's $46 billion budget.
Earlier: Gov. Murphy budget includes $400K to finish Toms River park for kids with disabilities
"I actually got a call this Thursday from Gov. Murphy. He wanted us to hear it first," Turnbach said. "I'm thrilled and thankful. Obviously it's a fantastic thing for our town and our community."
The RWJ Barnabas Health Field of Dreams at Ocean Orthopedic Complex, which is under construction on North Bay Avenue in Toms River, will include a playground, walking path, basketball court and baseball field, all designed for use by children and adults with disabilities.
Edelson: Toms River Field of Dreams sculpts path forward for kids with disabilities
"That was great, when Terrance called me and actually said he had just gotten off the phone with the governor, and said we had gotten it, it was a good day," Kane said. He said the state funds will help complete construction of the park, which Kane hopes will open this fall.
The Field of Dreams is the brainchild of Toms River High School North teacher Kane, whose now 10-year-old son, Gavin, suffered a severe brain injury as a result of a car accident. Gavin, then 19 months old, was in a car seat in the backseat of Kane's car when the vehicle was rear-ended by a fully loaded beer truck.
Kane and his wife, Mary, soon found that there was no playground near Toms River where Gavin, who moves around with the help of a specially designed wheelchair, could enjoy recreational experiences like other kids, whether it be playing baseball, sliding down a playground slide, or enjoying a round of miniature golf.
Christian Kane decided to change that. Watch him talk about the Field of Dreams project in the video above.
Toms River donated a 3.4-acre parcel of land for the park, and Kane has raised most of the $2.5 million needed to build it. Kane said that the $400,000 from the state, and other donations, should be enough to bring the project across the finish line.
Hometown: Todd Frazier donating $50,000 to Toms River Field of Dreams for special needs sports
Turnbach said earlier this year that Toms River officials had approached the governor's office to seek funds to help complete the Field of Dreams project. Kane said Murphy called him in February, shortly after he unveiled his budget, which included the state money.
Story continues below the video.
"We're really happy with the progress," Kane said. He said though the cost of some materials has risen during the COVID-19 pandemic, most of the equipment for the baseball field, playground and basketball court was bought prior to the pandemic.
The COVID-19 pandemic led to construction delays at the park site, but work began again in January, with Ocean County Recycling Center and N.J. Site Builders starting the process of installing electric, water, sewer, subflooring and curbing. Demand for construction materials has also caused some delays, Kane said.
Kane said he hopes the Field of Dreams can be the prototype for similar parks to be built throughout the country. Kane said he can share the knowledge he's gained from the project with others interested in following his lead.
"We're going to have the model set financially and also the design," he said. "For a dad like me in Texas, or a dad like me in California, they can see, this is how this has to be built, this is how it could be funded."
To donate to the Field of Dreams project, go to https://tomsriverfieldofdreams.com.
Jean Mikle covers Toms River and several other Ocean County towns, and has been writing about local government and politics at the Jersey Shore for nearly 37 years. A finalist for the 2010 Pulitzer Prize in public service, she's also passionate about the Shore's storied music scene. Contact her: @jeanmikle, email@example.com.
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