Guest Column: Save Roy Gayle Park for the kids

In the days since Rockford Pony Baseball/Softball Inc., in cooperation with the Rockford and Winnebago park districts, announced plans to begin eminent domain proceedings in Winnebago County Circuit Court against SCI Inc. there has been much controversy.

It is amazing how one, relatively small, organization has managed to stir so much emotion. Those associated with the organization have felt the gamut of emotion, from despair to elation, since this began two years ago. The process has proven to be a roller coaster of ups and downs. The ride does not appear to be coming to an end any time soon.

The core group of individuals consists of professionals who have stepped out of their normal lives to do a job they have never done before, for a cause they felt was right. Not to tout, but without the determination, energy and perseverance of this group, and the generosity of so many, we would not be where we are today. We would be turning out the lights forever at Roy Gayle Park.

One of our goals, through the fund-raising process, was indeed to make an emotional appeal to the community. We believe the history of our organization, coupled with where we are today, endear our park and program to thousands of people in the community.

As I listen to the radio coverage and the callers, I am disheartened by some of the comments. It seems there is a lack of understanding as to what “community” means, or maybe not a lack of understanding but a lack of “feeling” a part of a community. Community by definition means a unified body of individuals: a people with common interests living in a particular area.

A community consists of people who care about the welfare of other people. Think of all the phenomenal organizations with programs that give their time, talent and resources for the well-being of families and children such as Coats for Kids, Toys for Tots, Head Start, MELD and on and on. I would put the mission of Rockford Pony Baseball/Softball program right up there with these very worthy programs. In a community, I should hope every citizen would care about the health and well-being of its children. To quote a famous Whitney Houston song, “I believe that children are our future. Teach them well and let them lead the way. Show them all the beauty they possess inside.”

Although I feel that corporations, such as SCI Inc., serve a purpose in society and boast millions of dollars in charitable contributions, I do not believe they have a vested interest in the individual communities who patronize their businesses each and every day. Corporate America, in their penthouse offices at the top of skyscrapers in humongous cities, has become so detached from what makes America, and that is hardworking Americans.

If you have ever tried to raise funds for charities, you will know that it is the small businesses, shops, and individuals who live amongst us, breathe the same air, attend the same church, and walk the same paths that truly understand and care about the people in their community. Look on the cornerstones of buildings such as hospitals, schools, libraries and the like, and you will see the names of individuals living in this town that have given of themselves to better Rockford.

We at Rockford Pony Baseball/Softball feel this is worth saving, whatever we must do to achieve that. I do not feel sorry for the multibillion dollar corporation who once said we were a “thorn in their side.” I will quote author Charles Swindoll, “Everything I endure is designed to prepare me for serving others more effectively.” If that means we must be judged harshly in the court of public opinion for our method, then so be it. We simply want to purchase the land for what it is worth.

Leading a cause such as this may not always be the most popular, but we believe our resolve will help us to prevail. I will also quote Margaret Mead by saying, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

Michele Smith is the public relations Chairman for Rockford Pony Baseball/Softball Inc.

From the July 27-Aug. 2, 2005, issue

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