Return Roy Gayle to its rightful owners

For 42 years, hundreds of volunteers have worked to build and maintain the beautiful facility known as Roy Gayle Park. Thousands of children have loved to play ball at the park over the years. Although the property has never been owned by the organization, when it was originally leased in 1962, the volunteers thought it would always be theirs.

I recently sent a letter to SCI, Inc., of Houston, Texas, the owners of the 55 acres where Roy Gayle Park, newly named, Randerson-Carlson Sports Complex Roy Gayle Park, is located. I sent the letter as a citizen, as a concerned mother, as an advocate for not-for-profit organizations like Rockford Pony Baseball, and as an advocate for small businesses that battle corporate giants for their slice of the American pie. I sent the letter to the members of the executive board and the members of the board of directors, 25 in all, in hopes that the emotional letter would appeal to the conscience of just one of them. My hope was that someone from the largest company of its kind in the world would say to themselves and to their peers, “What are we doing?!”

The letter was a plea…..OK; I was begging them to consider what was at stake here. The loss of the park would impact hundreds of children immediately and thousands of children over time. In an overly anxious society, a society that does not dare allow their children to visit neighborhood parks alone because of the potential dangers that lurk there, free, imaginative play is a thing of the past. Organized sports have been an outlet for children and adults alike. Children sit home all day alone and bored, often times waiting for their parents to come home from work so they can head off to the ball park. It is at the ball park where they make the memories of their childhood, make life-long friends, learn to handle conflict, learn to respect authority, learn to share, learn to care for others and learn to win and lose graciously. It is not only about learning to play the game.

I sent the letter, waited a few days, then started calling the CEO and executive vice president to follow up. I wanted to make sure they not only received the letter, but read it. I wanted to be sure they knew there was a real live person behind those words and that I did expect a response. Of course, I could not speak to them directly. Their secretaries politely told me they were in meetings and were unavailable. They took my name and phone number and a brief description of what the call was in regard to.

Within a few days, I did receive a call from the executive vice president at my home in Winnebago. Unfortunately, I was not available to take the call and did not speak to him directly. He did leave an extensive message for me. He acknowledged receipt of my letter. He did recognize how painful this situation is for all involved. He stated that “they” were considering my request, which was to reconsider the first offer presented in the spring of 2003. As thrilling as it was to have gotten a personal response, there is a certain amount of skepticism as to the sincerity of the response, after all, an executive of a multibillion dollar company phoning me, a nobody from a town no bigger than a speck on the map. Once the thrill of the words he spoke wore off, I began to wonder if the call was just a way to appease me. I have not heard anything from SCI since. Rockford Pony Baseball still cannot say the property is theirs, nor is the future of the program known. The fight continues and fund-raising efforts are proving to be successful.

I call on SCI to make the right decision. Give the park back to the children … the rightful owners!!!

Michele Smith is a resident of Winnebago.

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