The RWJBarnabas Health Field of Dreams, a recreational complex that intentionally addresses physical and social inclusion for people of all ages and abilities and recognizes everyone’s right to participate fully in equitable play, officially opened last month in Toms River.
Co-founders Christian and Mary Kane were joined by RWJBarnabas Health dignitaries, community partners and nearly 500 guests from the special needs community to cut the ribbon and open the gates to the one-of-a-kind inclusive complex.
Former Major League Baseball all-star and Toms River hero Todd Frazier, who has been involved with the project since inception, participated in a ceremonial first pitch with Gavin and Christian Kane during the grand opening celebration.
The RWJBarnabas Health Field of Dreams was inspired by the Kanes’ 11-year-old son, Gavin, who suffered a traumatic brain injury on July 12, 2012, when the car Christian was driving was hit by a truck — Gavin was 19 months old. This was the moment that changed their lives forever, as Gavin suffered a right front temporal stroke and complete skull fracture, becoming a patient at Children’s Specialized Hospital, an RWJBarnabas Health Facility.
After living through the frustrations and struggles of finding inclusive facilities to accommodate Gavin and other kids with special needs, the Kanes were inspired to build a recreational complex where Gavin and other children (and adults) with special needs can feel typical while enjoying recreational activities alongside friends and family in a safe and welcoming environment.
“This is about the power of inclusion, as Mary and I built this complex for our son Gavin and other families that must endure the same challenges that we deal with every day,” Christian Kane said. “RWJBarnabas Health immediately recognized our vision, and the organization has been fully vested in this project since inception. Mary and I can’t thank them enough for their continued support.”
“The Kanes’ passion project aligned perfectly with RWJBarnabas Health’s commitment to health equity and supporting community-based initiatives where individuals from all backgrounds have an opportunity to recreate in a safe and welcoming environment,” said Barry Ostrowsky, CEO, RWJBarnabas Health. “It’s truly a privilege to collaborate with the Kanes and like-minded partners, and we envision this complex serving as the premier recreation facility in the country for inclusiveness and the special needs community.”
The RWJBarnabas Health Field of Dreams is equipped with a baseball field, basketball court, 9-hole miniature golf course, bocce and a spectacular playground area specially designed to be more accessible for wheelchairs and adaptive equipment. Other features include a walking path with rehabilitative stations, a “quiet corner,” located in a three-sided enclosed pavilion for those with autism, bathrooms with multiple electric changing stations to fully accommodate the special needs community, a temperature-controlled pavilion, strategically placed outlets that serve as wheel-chair recharging stations and much more.