Rockford Pony Baseball at Roy Gayle has been in existence in Rockford for 42 years. In that time, Roy Gayle Park has served more than 20,000 Rockford-area boys and girls and currently is the summertime home for more than 1,000 baseball and softball players. Interestingly, our organization functions completely by a board of volunteers, always havealways will!
The children we serve range in age from 5 to 16. We believe this program has made and will continue to make a huge difference in the lives of these young men and women. Yes, baseball and softball skills are honed and tested. We believe the children are learning more than the game. They are learning life skills. These are lessons and skills that they will need and use throughout their lifetime. The benefits are immeasurable.
By now, many probably understand that we are in the battle of our lives to raise the funding needed to purchase the 55 acres that our seven ball diamonds reside on. The Rockford Park District has provided a tremendous amount of assistance to our cause and has been prepared to help us write a land acquisition grant that will help us to raise much of the money needed to purchase the land. This grant, titled the OSLAD grant, has been slated as one program to be cut from the state budget by Gov. Blagojevich as part of his plan to balance the states budget. The governor has also proposed new initiatives for the next years fiscal budget. We strongly feel that existing initiatives should be fully funded before new initiatives are undertaken.
The suspension of the OSLAD program will obviously have a tremendous effect on our efforts and the efforts of groups like ours. We are very dependent on this grant to assist us with the purchase of the property. We would urge the governor to reconsider the suspension of the OSLAD grant before starting new programs. Without the necessary funding to complete the purchase, the organizers of Rockford Pony Baseball will face the challenge of attempting to make up the difference. We need the OSLAD grant to supplement our efforts or risk the demise of our program. We estimate only 15 percent of the children currently enrolled in our program would be able to be absorbed by other programs.
We are confident that we can raise the $500,000 that we announced as our goal several weeks ago. The community has already stepped forward, helping us raise nearly 60 percent of our target. We will find a way to be successful in spite of the loss of the OSLAD grant, if that is to happen. Roy Gayle was built on the blood, sweat, and tears of many individuals beginning 42 years ago up to the present day. It is too special to lose now.
We are hosting an Alumni/Patron Day at Roy Gayle on May 15. Lets show our support to our governor by uniting the masses that day. Alumni of the organization are invited to come and reminisce about the good old days and toast the future. Everyone is encouraged to come to the ceremonies, stay and watch a game or two, have a bite to eat and support a 42-year-old tradition. The ceremonies will begin at 11 a.m. You will see the eagerness in our young baseball and softball players eyes as they prepare for our 42nd season.
I urge the readers to let our governor know that he is potentially affecting hundreds of kids. Please visit our Web site at www.rockfordpony.com for more information on the OSLAD grant as well as other opportunities to help us raise the $500,000 that we will need.
Michael K. Broski is the chairman of Rockford Pony Baseball Capital Campaign.