Huge special needs playground about to open in Toms River, NJ
Don’t let that headline fool you. When I say special needs playground, that’s only half the story. The Field Of Dreams playground will be for everybody. Typical, atypical, ambulatory, wheelchair-bound, everybody.
In fact, a huge banner hangs at the playground with the word "INCLUSIVE." That’s the biggest dream of all at this field of dreams.
Going back to the beginning, it was the parents of a young man named Gavin Kane who made this place a reality.
Gavin was only 19 months old when he was in his dad Christian’s car and they were struck from behind by a truck. The kind of thing that can happen to anybody and when it happened to Christian and Mary Kane’s son it changed their lives in the blink of an eye.
Gavin suffered severe brain trauma but the Kanes never gave up on him. He’s now 10 years old and in the 4th grade but can’t walk and cannot speak. He communicates through a tablet. The Kanes were advised to put him in a home at a young age and mom and dad refused. They never stopped looking for ways to help their son.
Gavin is the inspiration for Field of Dreams. What started as ideas to make fun ways to have therapy for their boy turned into something so beautiful and so inclusive you wonder how God loaned Mary and Christian such strength.
They raised money. They planned. They lobbied. They raised more. It took years.
To get an idea of the dedication this family had, here’s a story from CBS 2 New York from when it was still under construction.
In the end, the project is a $2.5 million dollar dream come true for any family with kids who are different whether it be autism, brain injury, paralysis, etc.
It’s a place with a baseball field where kids in wheelchairs can play the game. It’s a place with swings for any child to play on, not just typical children. It’s sensory equipment. It’s ground-level carousels. It’s so much of everything to allow magical play for kids with any disability.
Here’s a sneak peek at just some of what awaits kids at RWJBarnabas Health Field of Dreams from NJ.com.
The 3 1/2 acre complex is a one-of-a-kind in the state. It’s scheduled to open on Saturday, April 30. It has fields for soccer, football, Special Olympics events. It has a zip line and Lucky Leo’s boardwalk games. It has miniature golf. It even has a “quiet corner” which is a pavilion with three sides made just for people with autism.
It’s at 1505 North Bay Ave. The opening day on April 30 is an earlier registration-only event then an open to the public period later in the afternoon. All the information you need can be found at rwjbhfieldofdreams.com.
One thing Gavin’s dad dreams of for his Field of Dreams is that typical able-bodied kids will come to play here too. As the father of two children with autism, I know how hard it can be for atypical kids to find friends and how much they are turned away from on playgrounds. It would be a beautiful thing for Gavin’s dad’s dream to come true and have typical children and atypical children play happily together.
Opinions expressed in the post above are those of New Jersey 101.5 talk show host Jeff Deminski only.
You can now listen to Deminski & Doyle — On Demand! Hear New Jersey’s favorite afternoon radio show any day of the week. Download the Deminski & Doyle show wherever you get podcasts, on our free app, or listen right now: