‘Field of Dreams’ for children of all abilities opens in New Jersey
A first-of-its-kind inclusive complex, the RWJBarnabas Health Field of Dreams, will open Saturday in Toms River, New Jersey.
The grand opening of the $ 3.6 million facility comes after nearly five years of planning and delays and challenges related to the pandemic. The Toms River complex will focus on serving children with physical and social disabilities.
While the opening of the complex is a triumph, it all started as a horrifying nightmare. Christian Kane was driving with his 19-month-old son, Gavin, when a beer truck crashed into his car near Toms River High School North. As a result, Gavin had a traumatic brain injury, a right anterior temporal stroke, and a complete skull fracture.
Today Gavin is 11 years old. He is in a wheelchair most of the time and mainly communicates via an iPad. But he’s a normal preteen who makes jokes at his parents’ expense and wants to play with his friends.
Gavin Kane at RWJ Barnabas Health Field of Dreams.
But it wasn’t easy.
“He wanted to do whatever all the other kids were doing,” said Mary Kane, Gavin’s mother. “But due to his lack of strength to hold his head up, he was very limited.”
As Gavin got older, he found it harder and harder to take him to playgrounds and get him involved in sports. The Kanes have six children.
“It was very challenging, almost impossible, for me to take him on a swing or a slide or something, so he didn’t. We could go to the playgrounds and he could watch, and that’s not fun,” Mary Kane She said.
Five years ago, Gavin’s parents got tired of him sitting on the sidelines. They devised a playground and a sports complex where children of all abilities could play and participate in physical activities together. “To be able to do things they never thought they would ever be able to do,” said Christian Kane.
Christian Kane, an Advanced Placement Statistics teacher at Toms River High School North, poured everything he had into this project. The $ 3.6 million facility would require major sponsors, state aid and grants e fundraiseras well as specialized equipment to accommodate kids of all abilities.
A girl tries out the new playground for the first time.
Christian Kane said the biggest challenge came when the pandemic nearly threatened the entire project. It meant a sharp rise in commodity prices and a shortage of construction workers.
“Due to inflation, something that cost $ 4 that would have been donated now ranges from $ 12 to $ 13,” he said. “Suddenly, I get these bills that I somehow know I’m going to have to finance.”
Now that the complex is ready, Christian Kane said he had received requests from groups across the state who wanted to visit the facility. The Kanes gave CNBC a first look at the facility before its official opening. Gavin and some of his closest friends also had the opportunity to visit the complex for the first time.
“You can hear the pure fun of the children in the background and you knew it was what they needed,” said Christian Kane.
The 3.5-acre state-of-the-art complex features a basketball court made from special materials to accommodate wheelchairs, a mini golf course, a baseball diamond, and a playground that caters for children with walkers, wheelchairs and more. It also has a community garden, a pavilion, a snack bar and a quiet corner overlooking the woods.
“You know when you come here that you will not be watched and you will not be watched and you know that you will come here just for fun and entertainment,” said Christian Kane.
Doctors claim that the advantages of such a structure are crucial.
Gavin and Christian Kane at RWJBarnabas Health’s new FIELD OF DREAMS.
“The opportunity to play, learn, and show off your skills outside the hospital is sometimes just as important as the medications and therapies that occur within the hospital,” said Matt McDonald, CEO of Children’s Specialized. Hospital, which looks after Gavin.
When Gavin first tested the facility, he showed sheer joy of being with other children who were similar to him. For parents, it’s a place to let their guard down and mingle with other families facing similar challenges.
Christian Kane said he hopes this is just the beginning. He wants others to see the importance and success of his he complex and build structures just like these.
He passes the crash site every day on his way to work, but said driving near the new dream field makes his days a little better.
“We walked past it and saw children and adults playing here,” he said. “All the hard work to build it was worth it.”