Toms River Field of Dreams becomes reality with Grand Opening Saturday
The dream has become a reality.
In 2018, Christian Kane set out on a mission to build a ballfield where his son Gavin and others with developmental or other disabilities can come and play ball like all the other kids.
Through challenge after challenge financially and otherwise including the pandemic, that vision that was once a dream has now become a reality as the RWJ-Barnabas Health Toms River Field of Dreams will have its grand opening on Saturday afternoon at the complex on Oak Avenue.
There will be a ceremonial celebration -- and invitation-only including for special needs families -- of the Grand Opening at 11:30 am and runs until 3:00 pm which will include there will be speeches by some of the TRFOD board members.
"Most of our special needs families will be there and you're talking about well over 100 families that have requested to be there for the Grand Opening," Christian Kane tells Townsquare Media News. "We're going to give them, obviously, the first opportunity to be able to take on the grounds and see everything that we have to offer."
A second part of the grand opening will take place at the complex where everyone who wishes to walk the grounds will be able to do so from 3:00 to 5:00 pm.
The Grand Opening on Saturday will serve as an unofficial opening to the complex as Kane and the board awaits the official certificate of occupancy.
"Once we receive that, then we'll be open," Kane said. "How it works is, we are basically a semi-private special needs complex, (and) what that means is that families with a special need -- when they come to the complex, they can register for a membership and that membership will allow them to come and go whenever they would like through the complex."
From there, the TRFOD complex will have designated hours throughout the course of a given week.
In terms of when games may be played and who would be on the field, there will be several teams and leagues that will be able to sign up and play.
"The Field of Dreams Foundation won't particularly be running leagues but what we're doing is offering organizations that already have challenger baseball or challenger soccer or challenger football -- we actually allow them to use our complex but then people can register through them," Kane said. "An example would be Toms River East Little League for baseball or Toms River Warriors for football or Toms River Football Club for soccer -- they'll be running the events, the leagues at our complex on our turf field."
Now that the complex is built, Kane explains that he's happy all those kids out there have a field of their own to play on.
"It's really the parents and the kids and the teachers who, after they actually experience the complex, when they come to me and they're smiling or they're hugging or they're crying saying, just, 'thank you' -- their appreciation, is for me, that -- well, after these five-years of struggling to raise $3.6-million dollars to fund this thing and $2.2-million of it being in cash -- I'm just happy that these people now have a place to go," Kane said.
While it is up and running, in order for this Toms River Field of Dreams complex to have long-lasting memories, upkeep is needed and for that, additional funding is also required.
"You can build it, but you got to maintain it and you want to run all these programs -- you want this to be the hub of special needs and inclusion for Monmouth, Ocean, and Burlington Counties, you want people to know that they have a place to go and they don't have to stay at home or they don't have to worry about being stared at," Kane said.
To help with having the funding needed to keep everything within the complex up and running efficiently, the foundation will be holding fundraisers from time to time to help in that effort including one coming up soon.
"We run one major fundraiser which is our Casino Night, which is June 4, and that'll be at the complex," Kane said. "From there, we're constantly looking for fundraising -- due to inflation, we're about $300,000 short of now being able to pay everyone off. It's as simple as companies donating their time or their pride through their labor, but they had to come back to me and said, for example, 'hey Christian, this cost $4.00 and we're going to pay for that, unfortunately now, it costs $12.00, you have to cover the difference', and you couldn't stop building, you had to keep going."
He's hopeful fundraisers like Casino Night will help them finish paying off expenses that were needed to build the field.
You can listen to the full conversation I had with Christian Kane, here.
Here is a 2021 story from when Governor Murphy joined Christian, Mary, and Gavin Kane at the TRFOD.
Here are some previous pictures of the RWJ-BH Toms River Field of Dreams.
RWJ-BH Toms River Field of Dreams