Building Futures, Changing Lives: The Transformative Impact of Youth Development Parks
January 10, 2024
Within the tight-knit community of Phillipsburg, New Jersey is a new opportunity for underserved youth to participate in healthy, positive team sports with the groundbreaking of a Youth Development Park - an emblem of collaboration between local community members and the unwavering support of McWane Ductile. This Park stands as a testament to the power of partnership, creating an inclusive space poised to empower youth with opportunities for growth, recreation, and community building. The Park stands as a symbol of collective dedication to fostering a brighter future for the young hearts of Phillipsburg.
This new multipurpose, state-of-the-art synthetic turf field will accommodate football, baseball, softball, soccer, lacrosse, and field hockey teams year-round as well as many other regional tournaments and community events, while programs will be overseen by the Town of Phillipsburg. This full-size synthetic turf field will provide a safe environment that fosters social, educational, and recreational interactions between at-risk youth and caring adult mentors, and will also be a clean, supportive space for other adults, youth, and children in and around Phillipsburg.
Walter’s Park, home to the future McWane Field, is in the heart of Phillipsburg and within walking or biking distance for all the local kids who will use it, including a large number of kids from the town’s two housing projects. The current ballfield has been in use since the 1920s and has served as home to over 600 youth soccer players, 250 youth baseball players, and 200 male Spanish soccer league players. Dr. James Brennan, Co-Chairman of the Ripken Foundation Youth Development Park Project Committee, believes that “creating a beautiful, state-of-the-art, multi-purpose facility hosting a wide range of sporting events and recreational activities for the children of our community will undoubtedly have a revitalizing effect on youth sports and recreation in our town.”
Brennan first got involved with the project in October 2022 when he was approached by life-long friend Jeff Finegan, a local business owner. Both the Finegan and Brennan families have roots in Phillipsburg that go back more than 100 years.. “After researching the Ripken Foundation, I was highly impressed by their mission and the great work they do,” said Brennan. “My only hesitation about getting involved was that possibility of a Ripken Youth Development Park here in Phillipsburg seemed almost too good to be true.” Brennan took an active role in creating and leading the committee that helped make this park possible. The committee was able to quickly form willing partnerships with the Phillipsburg Mayor, Town Council, Recreation Department, Police Department and School District, the Firth Youth Center, Norwescap, TapInto Phillipsburg, and a number of major donors and community stakeholders.
The most prominent and impactful partnership for this project is lead donor McWane Ductile, who donated a generous $1 million gift to this project. “This is the single largest private citizen donation in the history of our town,” said Brennan. “This amazing investment in the youth of Phillipsburg would not have been possible without the generosity of the McWane family and the great reputation of the Ripken Foundation. As I look into the future, our partnership with the Ripken Foundation, its mission, and the power and reputation of the Ripken Family brand, I firmly believe that we will attract and generate more opportunities to help our kids grow, develop and succeed.”
Inside Sales Manager at McWane Ductile Kelly Bray first heard about the field project through the Town Council President Harry Wyant, who was given the original proposal for consideration and approval. “Our Foundry has been a part of Phillipsburg since 1856, even before the town was founded. Many residents and their relatives have worked and still work here,” said Bray. She continued, “It is important for us to give back to the community that has supported us for generations and help drive changes that have a lasting impact on the town.”
Phillipsburg has many organizations that are focused on the revitalization of the downtown area, but they are limited by funding and support, making success difficult. Because this Park is centrally located to Phillipsburg’s most disadvantaged communities, we will provide a safe outdoor space critical for social and economic growth for the areas with the highest need. “Not only will it bring new activities and programs for our local youth, but the recognition of being the first Cal Ripken, Sr. Foundation Youth Development Park in New Jersey and the positive message that sends will hopefully draw new families and business to the area and help stimulate the local economy,” said Bray.
The founder of McWane Ductile, James Ransom McWane, began a charitable legacy that continues to this day. McWane, Inc. and its family of companies give millions of dollars annually to various community and charitable causes, focusing on benefiting the communities where their facilities are located, many in disadvantaged areas. “Knowing that the Ripken foundation is aligned with our core values provides a common ground to work on projects that build better futures for our communities,” said Bray. “We are looking forward to the difference we can make together!”
The future of these Youth Development Parks holds immense promise for fostering positive change in underserved communities across the country. These spaces not only provide vital recreational opportunities for youth, but also serve as a catalyst for growth, nurturing essential life skills and fostering a sense of community. As we look ahead, continued investment in these parks stand poised to empower countless young lives, bridging gaps and unlocking potential, ensuring a brighter and more equitable future for all.