Joplin, Missouri Miracle League Field
Scenius Principal Ron Gaydos serves on The Rotary Foundation’s International Technical Assistance Cadre, a group of professionals who lend their expertise to evaluate and advise various projects that The Rotary Foundation supports around the world. In May 2014 Ron went to Joplin, Missouri to evaluate a major project that TRF had supported: a baseball field for children and youth with physical and intellectual challenges.
On May 22, 2011 Joplin had been stricken by an EF-5 tornado – the highest category on the Enhanced Fujita Scale – and had lost 162 people, hundreds of homes, five parks, and countless trees in those parks and in the tornado’s path. The relief and rebuilding tasks ahead were overwhelming, but so was the international response.
“My experience as a builder and project manager allowed me to take an expert look at the field, its structures, and the site work”, Ron said when asked about his interest in international assistance volunteering, “and my experience with out-of-state and international projects lends itself to being able to quickly understand the operational situation.”
In 2012, once more urgent rebuilding efforts such as housing and basic needs were underway, the Joplin team could resume its plans to build an inclusive baseball park for special needs children. Not interested in “re-inventing the wheel”, the project team worked with the Miracle League organization, which developed programing and design specifications for baseball fields for special needs players.
“If you ask anyone if they would like a tornado, of course they would say no,” said the project’s local leader, “but we made the best of this tragic event to bring the community together like it never was before.”
Once it was complete and the Rotary Foundation grant was paid out, Ron arranged to get down to Joplin and inspect the project. He got settled in and went to the first inspection meeting that evening at the Miracle League Field, which was right by the area’s premier youth baseball stadium.
This inspection meeting was followed by an All-Star Game – comprised of all of the Miracle League players who could come that evening for this special event – complete with uniforms, PA announcer, and cheering fans. Ron was invited to join in as a “buddy”, accompanying one of the players to help them stay engaged in the game and to protect them from any hit balls or other situations that might endanger them.
It was great to see the completed project in use and enjoyed by the community. The tornado and the rebuilding efforts afterward did indeed seem to make the community very much stronger.
The next day came the “fun part”: sitting with the project team to go over the paperwork: the budget, receipts, approvals, and fundraising records. Ron dug into the details to be sure the guidelines were followed. After looking through everything , he found the project was in good hands.
“These kinds of projects give me a feeling of kinship to another community in another part of the world”, Ron said, “I was glad to help in this small way.”
Read the article Ron wrote for the October 2014 Cadre Newsletter and find out more about what the Rotary Foundation supports.