Tuesday, March 20 , 2018, 3:25 am | Fair 51º


Rotary Club of Goleta Gives, Challenges Others to Support Challengers

Girsh Park restroom project gains momentum after MarBorg donation

Noozhawk reported last week that MarBorg Industries had donated a much-needed handicapped-accessible restroom trailer to Girsh Park, which is used by the Dos Pueblos Little League and its special-needs Challenger Division. The trailer is a temporary solution while a fundraising effort can be organized to construct a permanent facility.

Diego rides along the bases during a game last year in the Dos Pueblos Little League's Challenger Division.
Diego rides along the bases during a game last year in the Dos Pueblos Little League’s Challenger Division. (ShaoBo Dong photo)

Now, another organization has come to bat for the project and wants to challenge others in the community to do the same.

The Rotary Club of Goleta decided to donate $500 to the Challenger Division and $500 to improvements at Girsh Park, and Challenger Division founder Retta Slay said those donations make all the difference. The league reaches out to children with special needs and gives them an athletic and social outlet, and with more than 80 players now participating, every dollar counts.

“Our typical children have hundreds of recreation and sport program options,” Slay said. “There are only a handful for our children with special needs.”

The Rotary Club’s Julie McGeever said club members had read the Noozhawk story and that, coincidentally, Slay had been scheduled to speak to the club the same day the article was published. She mentioned the restroom issues, as well as plans for the future of the program and expansion.

Slay brought with her a video that had been created by one of the Challenger moms, showing the kids having fun during their games. “It had everyone in tears,” McGeever said.

The club then went into its board meeting and talked about how to distribute funds it had raised from its annual Fourth of July Fireworks program at Girsh Park.

The board voted to commit $500 each to the Challengers and the nonprofit park. McGeever said the club chose to designate the funds as unrestricted so they could be used for whatever the organizations want.

That $500 gift will fund full scholarships for five children for a Challengers season, including uniform, food, mentoring and coaching, and awards.

“That’s five kids who might not have had a chance to participate in what appears to be a life-changing program,” McGeever said.

Now the Rotary Club has laid down a challenge to the larger community to give.

“We fully realize that times are tougher for most right now, but if the pennies roll in from many sources it might grow to something quite useful,” McGeever said. “As far as we are concerned, both organizations are some of the best reflections of what the Goleta community does so well.”

Slay agreed.

Ryan flashes a winning smile as he sprints to first.
Ryan flashes a winning smile as he sprints to first. (ShaoBo Dong photo)

“We are so grateful for the outpouring of generosity in the community toward our children with special needs,” Slay said.

For those looking to help out with the Challengers program, a variety of opportunities are available.

Scholarship funds are needed to cover costs like league fees, insurance, uniforms, equipment and other items. Funding and training for the 60 volunteers the Challengers use are also needed.

Slay’s wish list for the Challenger Division includes money for purchase of utility carts, adaptive equipment and a sponsor for its 2010 Summer Baseball Camp.

Coaches and field staff, announcers and buddies for the kids are also needed, as well as a registered nurse or medical attendant each Saturday, among other positions.

“From the very beginning, it has been important to me that no child be turned away, nor any family discouraged from bringing their child to the ball park because of registration fees,” said Slay, who vowed to keep working to make sure each child is covered.

Click here to volunteer or donate to the Challenger Division or e-mail .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

Aside from port-a-potties, the nearest restrooms are 300 yards away from Girsh Park’s baseball fields, making it difficult for children to go during a game. The park does not have the funding to launch a $300,000-plus construction project to install a permanent restroom facility adjacent to the fields, which also are used by AYSO soccer, summer camps and various after-school programs.

MarBorg’s donation of an $80,000 restroom trailer — which the company is providing at no cost — will buy the park some much-needed time for fundraising for a permanent facility.

For more information about Girsh Park or to make a donation, e-mail park executive director Ryan Harrington at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or call 805.968.2773 x3.

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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