The Board of Directors of Girsh Park has announced major gifts totaling $295,000 to date, essentially half of its $600,000 goal for the Field Forever 3 Campaign at Girsh Park.

Ruelene Girsh Hochman

Ruelene Girsh Hochman

Especially poignant was a bequest of $100,000 provided from the estate of Ruelene Hochman, who was the daughter and only child of Dr. Lester and Viola Girsh, the lead benefactors of the park.

“The board was really touched by this,” Executive Director Ryan Harrington said. “When Ruelene passed away last August, the park had lost a very dear friend, and someone who had been a strong supporter since the park’s very first opening days. But even in her passing, we were heartened to find Ruelene was continuing to provide for Girsh Park. Her bequest will be applied to our Field Forever 3 Campaign, and with her contribution, together with a gift of $30,000 from the Hutton Foundation, we have jumped to nearly half our goal of  $600,000.”

The park originally opened as Camino Real Park in 1999. It was named the Lester A. and Viola S. Girsh Park, shortly after Ruelene and the Girsh and Hochman families gave more than $2 million to start an endowment for the park.

Before the Camino Real Marketplace was developed, the property had been previously owned by Dr. and Mrs. Girsh, who allowed Little League baseball and other youth sports to use the field.

Previous contributions by the Girsh and Hochman families included a $550,000 donation to Fields Forever 2 to install synthetic turf for the “Girsh-Hochman Soccer Field.”

Created as a a nonprofit park for the community, Girsh Park provides a significant array of youth and adult sports and other recreational activities for the Goleta Valley.

“Girsh Park subsidizes youth and adult recreation programs, so they can rent field space at a very affordable rate, and in turn, making these activities very affordable for families,” Harrington said. “We are able to sustain our programs through fundraising, support from the City of Goleta, and the park’s endowment. Without this support our fees would be much higher for the users.”

Girsh Park subsidizes youth baseball and soccer in the ballpark of $100,000 per year. Organizations such as Dos Pueblos Little League, AYSO, the Santa Barbara Soccer Club, and the U.S. Youth Volleyball League take advantage of low-cost facilities for their programs. This also includes programs for special-needs children such as Challengers Baseball, VIP Soccer, Special Olympics Programs and Challengers Flag Football.

Ruelene’s bequest of $100,000 will be directed toward Girsh Park’s latest campaign, Fields Forever 3 Capital Campaign to create a Field House and park improvements.A Field House will provide much needed restrooms, a concession stand and storage.An upgraded batting cage, new walking paths, new playgrounds and better accessibility for disabled park users will also be implemented. Another important consideration are the programs for special-needs children, including DP Challengers Baseball, Challengers Flag Football and the AYSO VIP program.

Daniel Hochman, son of Ruelene Hochman, articulated the family’s intent.

“The family’s goal for Girsh Park is to provide open recreational space and great sports programming for the youth of Goleta and surrounding communities,” he said. “Our dream is that it always remains affordable and sustainable and that the community continues to recognize the value of the park to families, and to support the park for future generations.”

— Erin Graffy is a publicist representing Girsh Park.