With more than 1,700 special needs families already registered as members, the RWJBarnabas Health Field of Dreams announced its 2023 lineup of programming for kids and adults with special needs, headlined by the Todd Frazier Special Needs Baseball League and Special Olympics Youth Athletes Program.
The complex, a one-of-a-kind, inclusive recreational facility created for the special needs community, is led by two anchor institutions in the local area, Children’s Specialized Hospital and Community Medical Center.
RWJBarnabas Health is providing resources, expertise and staffing to support day-to-day operations and annual programming at the complex. To date, 35 school districts in the region and more than 20 organizations that cater to special needs adults (age 21-plus) have utilized the complex for programming.
The RWJBarnabas Health Field of Dreams is equipped with a baseball field, basketball court, nine-hole miniature golf course, bocce, shuffleboard 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 “powered” changing stations to assist caregivers and fully accommodate the special needs community, a temperature-controlled pavilion with charging stations for powered wheelchairs, a community garden and much more.
While the complex is open to the special needs community, families are encouraged to register for free membership, which offers family members and caregivers turnkey access to the Inclusive complex Monday to Saturday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Additionally, members receive regular facility news and updates, and have the opportunity to enjoy special events and programming throughout the year.
Founded by Christian and Mary Kane, the RWJBarnabas Health Field of Dreams was inspired by the Kanes’ 12-year-old son, Gavin, who at 19 months old suffered a traumatic brain injury on July 12, 2012, when a truck hit the car Christian Kane was driving.
After living through the frustrations and struggles of finding inclusive facilities to accommodate kids with special needs, the Kanes were inspired to build a recreational complex where Gavin and other children (and adults) can feel typical while enjoying recreational activities alongside friends and family in a safe and welcoming environment.
Dr. Matthew McDonald III, CEO of Children’s Specialized Hospital, said the impact of the complex cannot be overstated.
“It is essential for individuals of all abilities to have access to activities and therapy programs beyond our hospital walls,” he said. “The diverse lineup of programming validates that the RWJBarnabas Health Field of Dreams is the perfect venue to support the physical, mental and social well-being of children and adults with special health care needs.
“This project reinforces RWJBarnabas Health’s commitment to health equity and supporting community-based initiatives where individuals from underserved populations have an opportunity to recreate.”