Jays Care Foundation providing $150,000 in funds to improve ball fields in Central Manitoulin

    MINDEMOYA—Thanks to the efforts of the Pearson Cup Tournament Committee, the municipality of Central Manitoulin will be receiving $150,000 in funding from the Jays Care Foundation, the charitable arm of the Toronto Blue Jays to make improvements to the local ball fields. The $150,000 being provided locally is the maximum amount that is provided under this fund.

    “It is still mind blowing, even though I’ve known for a few days that this announcement would be made today,” stated Greg Lockeyer, a member of the Pearson Cup Tournament Committee, told the Recorder Tuesday. “We received the maximum funding amount we could under this program. We had hoped we would get something, but I never dreamed we would receive that amount,” said Mr. Lockeyer.

    Jays Care Foundation announced Tuesday that a total of $1,176,882 is being provided to 13 communities across four provinces in Canada in infrastructure investments through its Field of Dreams grants program. Thirteen organizations spanning four provinces will use grants of up to $150,000 to build, enhance or refurbish safe spaces for children and youth to play baseball, develop life skills and learn from positive role models.

    The vast majority of children and youth across Canada are not meeting the recommended levels of daily physical activity. In fact, according to the 2016 ParticipACTION report card, only nine percent of children aged 5 to 17 years accumulate at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous intense physical activity per day. To address this issue, Jays Care has to date invested almost $10,000,000 in 80 infrastructure projects across Canada.

    “Jays Care is committed to creating opportunities for children and youth,” says Robert Witchel, executive director, Jays Care Foundation, in a release. “The support the Blue Jays enjoy across the country inspires us on and off the field. These investments will give young Canadians the opportunity to be more active and learn valuable life-skills such as resiliency, teamwork and leadership through sport and play.”

    “We were quite pleased to hear about the funding being provided,” said Richard Stephens, mayor of Central Manitoulin. “Mr. Lockeyer did a fantastic job putting the application together and getting approvals of support together to support this application and make it work.”

    “We look forward to working with his (Mr. Lockeyer’s Pearson Cup committee) team to update our ball diamonds,” said Mayor Stephens.

    A representative of the Jays Care Foundation told the Recorder that “we were really impressed with the (local) application. We are very passionate about making baseball accessible to all. One of the points made in the application is that with the work to be done it will make the municipalities’ ball fields access to all-disabled persons and those who use wheelchairs to play baseball.”

    As reported previously, at a Central Manitoulin council meeting December 15, council gave its approval to provide a letter of support for the Pearson Cup Committee’s Field of Dreams Jays Care Foundation application with the Toronto Blue Jays.

    Mr. Lockeyer approached a large number of groups in the community to see if they were in favour of the committee trying to tap into this funding. They agreed and the proposal was led by the Pearson’s Cup committee on behalf of all the groups. He explained previously, “we have a huge kids’ ball program in the community, with over 80 plus kids involved; Manitoulin Special Olympics is a big user of our ball fields on a weekly basis and for their annual tournament which brings in about 300 people every year; the Pearson Cup, which brings in between 400-450 every year; then there are the Lions events and the recreational ball leagues.”

    “We have a good facility but we are looking to do some upgrades,” Mr. Lockeyer. This includes redoing-resurfacing the outfield and infield with top soil, new bases, new lights, and covered dugouts for the four benches (on the two fields). “For instance, the lights at the ball field (in Mindemoya) are 30 years-old and can be quite dim,” he said.

    “The Manitoulin Special Olympics team use our fields a lot, and by improving lighting that is 30 years-old, it will allow everyone to play later at night. And for instance, our outfield grass is now like cement and it needs to be re-sodded with new top soil, which we will be able to do now,” continued Mr. Lockeyer.

    The Jays Care Foundation representative told the Recorder the funding provided to Central Manitoulin will go toward lighting poles and fixtures, covered dugouts, safety fence, top soil and clay and sod to build up the infield and outfield and sets of safety bases to make it easier for players who use wheelchairs to use.

    “It has been a long, long process but it has certainly been worth it now that we have received this funding,” added Mr. Lockeyer.