Sunday, April 13, 2008
Washington Nationals Dream Foundation Neighborhood Initiatives
Although I am currently out of the country on an assignment--I wanted to post up our report from The Washington Nationals Dream Foundation Press Conference from Saturday--April 12, 2008. Usually--I would separate this post out for a couple of stories--but internet access is spotty in my current location--and I am not really sure how much free time will be available over the next four to five days. So--although this is a long post--Sohna and I wanted to share the information. Yes, we love baseball--Major League Baseball with Our Washington Nationals. But sometimes--it's about more than the games themselves. The Great Game can affect many lives--on a personal level. And Our Washington Nationals are attempting to work within their community. We respect the approach. Not every professional team has done so.
With that--here we go--
Yesterday morning at New Nationals Park--The Washington Nationals Dream Foundation unveiled their third cornerstone project--Neighborhood Initiatives. This latest core project is geared to help and assist those youths in need--living closest to the South Capitol Street Ballpark. "The Washington Nationals are committed to being good neighbors," stated Marla Lerner Tanenbaum--Washington Nationals Dream Foundation Chair.
“As we shaped Our Dreams about what The Nationals Dream Foundation could be—we spent a considerable amount of time trying to figure out what children and families in the DC Area needed and how we could best use the team’s assets to support programs that have an established and substantial impact. For The Foundation to do its best work—it needed focus. We decided to dedicate our resources to three cornerstone areas that would anchor our work in the community. The first thing we did was to investigate what were the most critical health concerns for children in The District of Columbia. It did take long to understand that Diabetes is a growing epidemic in the DC Area. Nearly everyone knows someone who has been touched by it. And there was no comprehensive State of The Art Facility in DC devoted to the care and health of children that have diabetes. With that in mind—we were proud to announce our first cornerstone project--a partnership with the premiere children’s institution in the Washington Area—The Children’s National Medical Center for the creation of a State of The Art Pediatric Diabetes Care Complex.”
“And since, what we do best is baseball—it was important to find a way to connect with kids directly through the game. So The Foundation’s second cornerstone project is our partnership with The District of Columbia Government to build The Washington Nationals Youth Baseball Academy in Ward 7—which will coach boys and girls on the fundamentals of baseball & softball. And—with equal emphasis—on far reaching after school college prepatory and career focus programs."
“For the third cornerstone—we turned our attention to our neighbors around Nationals Park—who have so graciously come to us. As the new kids on the block—we thought it was vital to come in as contributing members right from the start. With that in mind—we have established The Neighborhood Initiative. Under the umbrella of this initiative—The Foundation will support small non-profit organizations in the area surrounding Nationals Park with grants, in kind donations and other resources available to The Team and The Foundation. We really wanted this commitment to go beyond monetary support. So, for example, The Nationals Human Resources Department will be helping to place members in jobs around the stadium and with our vendors.”
Over the next three years--Our Washington Nationals will donate $40,000 to The Earth Conservation Corp. A non-profit group that specializes in mentoring District Youths and revitalizing The Anacostia River Waterfront. The ECC works with out of school unemployed youths ages 17-25 to provide hands on training, career skills and development.
ECC President Ben O'Gilve was quite pleased with the partnership: "Young people in The District of Columbia are assets and do have great skills. We must provide a means to bring that out of them. 17 Years ago--The ECC realized the issues on The Anacostia River and very quickly also realized the social issues. While the river has pollution concerns and trash concerns--the community also had great concerns--high rates of unemployment, low rates of academic achievement, and high rates of poverty. We have been working to address all of those issues simultaneously over the past 17 years--and we have had great success. Last year alone--we had 5,606 people on this river engaged in service and we were also in their classrooms teaching environmental stewardship. Some of those people where from The Nationals Team, Their Fans, some of The Coaches--also Mark Lerner and his children. So--we realized very quickly The Nationals wanted to engage in service and be good neighbors here on The Anacostia."
Marla Lerner Tanenbaum continuing: "We knew right away this is a perfect fit for Our Neighborhood Initiative. What could be more worthwhile than supporting a program that supports our youth to become more responsible citizens in the own community and environment—while giving them skills that can build a career on.”
Additionally--The Dream Foundation--during the press gathering in The Center Field Plaza--also announced they will provide a $50,000 gift to The Hopkins Branch of The Boys & Girls Clubs of Washington. Most everyone is aware of The Boys & Girls Clubs--but many may not realize that The Hopkins Branch--less than two miles from New Nationals Park--is the only one that still exists in a public housing project. This particular club is in great need of a Teen Director--to work with the many kids ages 5 through 19 looking to change their lives. Our Washington Nationals are providing the resources for The Hopkins Branch to hire the right mentor.
Washington Nationals Dream Foundation President Alphonso Maldon, Jr--stating:
"Our Foundation has always understood the value of a partnership with The Boys & Girls Club. The Boys & Girls Club of Greater Washington does so many great things here in this region. They actually serve over 30,000 members and young people in the Washington, DC Area every year. And because of that, we realize that if we come together in partnership we can leverage all those unique qualities and resources of our organizations--so we can serve even more children than the current 30,000--and at a higher quality. So--with that all it mind--it pleases me to make the announcement that we (The Washington Nationals Dream Foundation) are providing a $50,000 Grant to The Hopkins Branch of The Boys & Girls Club."
Yet, that was not all the information shared on Saturday Morning. Finally--Mrs. Tanenbaum unveiled--along with Washington Nationals players--Elijah Dukes and Joel Hanrahan--the first of three special commemorative cases. "The Wall of Dreams" display in The Center Field Plaza--adjacent to The Kids Strike Zone. Fans will be able to purchase one of the 342 baseball displayed in each case to personally inscribe their own name (up to two lines) or dedicate the baseball to a loved one or friend.
"23 months ago—when my family became a part of The Nationals Organization—we knew that a commitment to the DC area demanded that we be more than a baseball team, more than a ballpark, and more than a business. Most of us where born and raised here. We have all raised our families here. And as representatives of The National Pastime in Our Nations Capital—it was essential that The Washington Nationals Dream Foundation demonstrated our allegiance to the city. And in the process—hopefully encourage a whole community of dreamers. We hope to find a tangible way to demonstrate this commitment and to find an instrument that embodied the commitment of Our Fans as well. We hope to raise dollars for our Cornerstone Programs—while giving the fans something they, their children and their grand-children could point to an be proud of. We think we have found the perfect way to show the world that Nats Fans care. We are very proud to be here today to unveil The Washington Nationals Dream Foundation “Wall of Dreams” Supporters. And I am extremely proud to say that to start off—Pitcher Joel Hanrahan and Outfielder Elijah Dukes have purchased the first two baseballs.”
Four different price points are available--including The Grand Slam--a gold stitched baseball valued at $5,000. The Triple consisting of a red stitched baseball valued at $2500, $1,000 for the blue stitched double and $250 for a green stitched ball. Package level determines placement of your baseball.
“We hope and they hope that every single time Our Fans walk past this wall—they too will be inspired to invest their time, their money and their dreams in the community surrounding them," concluded Marla Lerner Tanenbaum. "At four different price points—this is a legacy all of Our Fans can pass on to their own families.”
Those Fans wishing to purchase a baseball for the "Wall of Dreams" may do so online through nationals.com, at the ballpark or by filling out a brochure available throughout New Nationals Park. Avid Washington Nationals Aficionado--Frank Cumberland--without hesitation--bought the first package by a fan for $250.
"This is as gas. A real thrill to be a part of The Dream Foundation Kickoff here at Nationals Park," exclaimed Mr. Cumberland. "When you look at the kind of things that they are dedicated to doing--Number One--diabetes--which is really tearing our community apart in many, many ways. Number Two--the restoration of The Anacostia River--which is something I always wanted to be a part of. And of course Three--any Nationals Fan has to be an advocate of youth baseball. So--for me--this is a great three part way to be apart of their integration and attachment to our community. So, I think this is great."
"My plan is and I need to go through the nomenclature with the staff, but my plan is to find a way to put my family's name, but especially my father's name onto this. Because he really gave all of us eight kids out in College Park (MD) an unbelievable love of baseball. He was down at Griffith Stadium watching Babe Ruth, Walter Johnson and Ty Cobb--all of these incredible people. So--he gave us this great love of the sport. Fast forward--when we signed the beam (of The HDTV Scoreboard) at the toping out ceremony (at New Nationals Park)--I put his name on it--in his great honor. And I plan on honoring him again with this special baseball."
Team President Stan Kasten also was in on the morning's activities: "This is just so different from so many of our other announcements which we have made about the stadium. This is a day to talk about some of the other things going on. The important things we have going on that take place beyond the walls of this ballpark. When we first came here—we talked about all the many things that were important to us. They involved things on the field. They involved things in the stands. But, they very much also involve the impact that we can have in DC and throughout our region on so many different levels."
Finally--after the Press Conference ended--I joined Barry Svrluga of The Washington Post, Mark Zuckerman of The Washington Times and Bill Ladson of Nationals.com in a Q & A with Marla Lerner Tanenbaum.
Here are those questions and answers:
Question: You probably had many different organizations to choose from for your cornerstone projects. How did you come about choosing these?
"The Boys & Girls Club--once you become a part of The Major League Baseball Family--they are the recognized charity. But, what I was looking for in this neighborhood was the homegrown aspect of The Boys & Girls Club. They are the closest Club to the ballpark. Then I found out that this particular branch was the only one still in a public housing project. And it was probably the most deserving and most in need--across the board. One day, I just went over there. I called, went over, walked around and asked--'What's your greatest need?' A Teen Director came the response. So--that's what we should do. Sometimes you can research and research--but sometimes the simple solution is right there."
"The Earth Conservation Corp--there is no closer neighbor. Because of our Leed Certification--this was something I was very interested in. We had partnered with The Earth Conservation Corp about a year ago--when we were building the ballpark to do an event. And I was very impressed."
Question: How important is it to get you (The Nationals) to embrace this project and your partners to embrace the situation at hand--as well?
"it's like when you build a house and the neighbors are affected by the disruption, the trunks and the debris. You feel like you want to go over and shake their hands--and apologize. In large way--that is an extension of what we are doing. We are going to be here for a long time. These are going to be our neighbors. They are going to change. We are going to change. I think this is critically important. Everybody on the team in Our Family know this is our most crucial initiative. But, I wanted to make sure we were in the ballpark first. That's why we did the diabetes program first--while we were working on the academy."
Question: Do you have a sight in Ward 7 yet? (for the baseball academy)
"Yeah, we do. We have a sight. It's not announced because we are working with The Federal Government to get them to transfer the land we shall receive. As you know, that is a very long process--we are making headway though. We really are. We have started the environmental assessment period that it has to go through. We are working with an architect and have some preliminary plans. We are working on fundraising. So--we are doing all of it--but you are not going to see anything tangible for a little while longer."
Are the projects announced today--long term commitments? (SBF)
"Yes. They are long term commitments. Basically, we have announced for three years, but I know we are going to do a long term project with The Boys & Girls Clubs. We are just taking it a little slower. Actually, we are doing it this way so The Teen Director could be about $50,000 in salary and other aspects of that position. And then we want to see what next year brings. So, we will evolve over time."
Question: So for now--its a one time thing?
"Yes, that is a one time gift--but we are committed long term to the program."
Question: Once someone makes a donation for the "Wall of Dreams"--how will their names be inscribed?
"There will be two lines the donor has available to fill-in for personalization. I think its 14 characters per line. So--we will take the ball out (of the case) and personalize it--then put it back in."
Question: Are you limited to the three planned cases--or can this project go on for a long, long time? (SBF)
"Well there are 342 in each case--that's a long time. If people go crazy--we will find another wall. All I will need to do is bend my brother's arm (Mark Lerner) and he will find one."
Question: Elijah Dukes and Joel Hanrahan purchased those two balls--their names are going to be on there?
"Yes, if they wish. Now--they may want to dedicate it to a coach, a parent, or somebody else--but its up to them what they want to do. That's the beauty of it. So many people have grandparents in which they wish to remember them in a special way."
Question: And you can purchase a ball online or in the park? (SBF)
"You can purchase online, through the brochure, fax it to us, give us a call, at the park--whatever works best for you, we are awaiting."
With that the Q&A ended.
Sohna and I appreciate the effort anyone does to assist those in need outside the lines of the baseball field. We find it important to share this with anyone that might also be interested in becoming involved. And you better believe--The African Queen and I are purchasing a baseball for "The Wall Of Dreams". We can't think of a better way to show support--for Our Washington Nationals and Our Beliefs in and My Hometown.