Challenger Players Win with New Ballfield
David Vaughn was channel surfing one evening when he came upon a UNC-TV program featuring disabled children playing baseball. He watched their wheelchairs glide smoothly over the field and quickly formed a game plan.
“As I watched‚ I said‚ ‘I’m going to build that field here‚’” recalls the owner of David G. Vaughn Construction.
Vaughn‚ whose daughter Sarah plays softball for Greenville’s Challenger League‚ knew that creating a field that was designed to minimize physical barriers could only enhance the Little League experience for all children with special needs.
His dream quickly became reality with the help of friend Mike Steele‚ whose son‚ Drew‚ is also a child with special needs; East Carolina University football coach Skip Holtz; Greenville’s Recreation and Parks Department; and a large team of volunteers.
“Everybody in the community stepped up‚” says Vaughn. “We had groundbreaking on the ball field on April 16th  and held opening ceremonies on June 16th.”
Gary Fenton‚ director of Recreation and Parks‚ says popular Elm Street Park was deemed the perfect place for the Sarah Vaughn Field of Dreams.
“The idea of creating a facility like that right next to a facility for children who don’t have special needs is important‚” he says. “We‚ as a city‚ think inclusion in sports is important. We should do all we can to make it possible for all youngsters to participate.”
The field is created from asphalt and a rubber compound to allow wheelchairs and walkers to roll smoothly over the turf. The dugouts have extra-wide entrances‚ and the adjacent lot features plenty of handicapped parking. The field is fully outfitted and aesthetically charming with a scoreboard‚ bleachers and even a landscaped area in the shape of a baseball helmet. The theme carries over to a new accessible observation deck with a roofline designed to mimic a baseball cap.
“Everybody gets to go around the bases and score‚ and everyone gets a standing ovation‚” David Vaughn says of the wonderful spirit of the Challenger League.
Hundreds came out for the opening ceremony and watched proudly as each ballplayer was introduced.
“There wasn’t a dry eye in the place‚” Vaughn says.
Fenton hopes this project will serve as a shining example of how a recreation area can be enjoyed by everyone. Already‚ plans are under way to create the Drew Steele Center‚ which will offer a variety of community activities in a setting designed to eliminate obstacles to participation.
“A day will come … I know … that we don’t have to say a park is ‘accessible’ because all parks will be accessible to everyone‚” Fenton says.
For the many who enjoy Elm Street Park‚ that day has arrived.
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