When a plan comes together
June 20, 2012
Ground was broken Saturday morning, April 21 for the new concession stand at Whicker Field. Participating were, from left: John Whicker, retired BCS president; Grant Frauhiger; Dave Goodwint; Tim Ramsey, current BCS president; L.A. Brown, Frank Gaier of BCS; Ralph Aschliman; Rick Aschliman,; and Dick Bricker, Dream Team organizer. (Photo by Mark Miller)
It’s ‘for the kids’ as a diverse group of people, businesses get it done
By MARK MILLER
What defines a community?
How do things get done?
How does all that work?
Here’s one example.
Sometimes things happen by envisioning things. Sometimes things happen by pure accident. Sometimes things happen because people kick around ideas. Someone asks “What if?” Someone says, “we can do that.”
There is a new concession building with restrooms at Whicker Field behind Bi County Services on Bluffton’s south side. Ground was broken in early April and the facility is just being finished in mid-June. It was all done by volunteer or deeply discounted labor and materials. Those who didn’t or couldn’t do that gave cash.
Whicker Field has been the home of “The Dream Team,” a four-week summer baseball program for handicapped children that celebrated its 10th anniversary last year. Where the field sits was an empty back yard of Bi County Services.
“Dick Bricker and I were looking out the back door one day at this empty field,” recalls John Whicker, retired CEO of BCS. “We asked each other ‘We have this land; what can we do with it?’”
Bricker, a civilian employee at the Indiana Air National Guard base in Fort Wayne, has been a volunteer at BCS for years where his wife, Linda, is employed. Bricker thought of The Dream Team members, who had been playing their games at Jefferson Park. Wouldn’t it be fitting, he thought, if Bi County — which exists to serve handicapped people —could host the Dream Team games here?
That was seven years ago. The ball diamond was initially laid out by Lance Hershberger, the first executive director of the then-brand-new Wells County YMCA. Besides the Dream Team, BCS consumers have activities on the field as well.
“It’s been a three-fold blessing,” Whicker says.
Three-fold? Stick with us here.
Each year, Bricker made it his mission to make some sort of improvement to the field. Just last year, team dugouts were added as an Eagle Scout project by Brandon Gephart. It was during that process that Dave Goodwin entered the picture.
Goodwin, a funeral director by trade but a self-professed baseball nut by choice, had been involved in leading the Bluffton T-Ball League since his days as a Jaycee in 1983.
“We’re celebrating our 30th season this year,” Goodwin says. And he’s been there for all of them.
Goodwin and Bricker have been friends for years. One day during a casual conversation, the ball diamond came up. The T-Ball League was continuing to grow and was having trouble getting all their games in at the busy city diamonds at Jefferson and Lions parks. Who had the idea is not certain, but the T-Ball League ended up using the BCS ball diamond for two weeks of the 2011 season. That’s when Goodwin met current BCS president Tim Ramsey.
“Tim was happy to have the diamond used more,” Goodwin says. “He’s really great to work with.”
Goodwin soon noticed one drawback: whenever there were games at the diamond, someone from BCS had to be there to keep the main building open so there were restrooms.
When discussions turned to the T-Ball League using the newly-named Whicker Field (it was named in honor of John Whicker last year) on a regular basis in 2012, someone asked a question about rest rooms. That led to another question: “Maybe we could have a concession stand?”
“We had a meeting at some point,” Goodwin remembers. “John (Whicker) was there, Dick (Bricker) and Tim (Ramsey), and I think Nikki (Surbaugh, current head of the local YMCA).”
Bricker recalls that he and his wife had sold popcorn at Dream Team games for several seasons. The money they raised went to scholarships for the Dream Team kids to go to special need camps. To be able to do that on a regular basis was enticing. They also wanted to add some bleachers for parents and fans.
“I thought we could probably get everything donated,” Goodwin now recalls. “I guess I kind of took it on.”
So how has that worked out?
To call it a positive response would be an understatement. Even if you said it was a “very, very” positive response, it wouldn’t aptly describe it.
Goodwin started making some phone calls.
“No one said ‘no,’” he says. “If there was any hesitation, it was because of time availability, but even then they’d send a donation.”
Goodwin does not like to ask for money. “I have no hesitation to ask people to donate their time or materials, but I hate asking for donations,” he says.
He hasn’t needed to. He’s received more than $7,000 from local donors.
Several businesses said they would provide materials at a discount but would then send the cash to cover it. After the photo of the groundbreaking appeared in The News-Banner in late April, “people would walk up to me and hand me a check,” Goodwin says. “I’d walk into my office after a visitation or a funeral and find a check on my desk.
“It’s just amazing how this has come together. People find out what it’s for — for the kids — and they want to help,” Goodwin explains.
One of the main issues was the sewage; it was too costly to pump it to the nearest city sewage line, but between L.A. Brown, a local sewage system contractor, and the city, it was worked out.
Goodwin also found himself in a new role: construction manager. “Probably the biggest problem has been getting people coordinated. Things have to be done in a certain order, and we’re dealing with volunteers here, so you have to understand that and be patient.”
That has resulted in a bit of a delay. They had hoped it would be completed for the start of the T-Ball season but that didn’t quite happen. It will be finished, Goodwin insists, before the season concludes and certainly in time for the Dream Team season in July.
It all started with a conversation between two people. Someone asked “what if?” The community — people — responded.
And that’s how it all works in Bulffton, Indiana. u-