Around lunchtime on a hot Wednesday late last month, Walter Nolan-Cohn took a break from the sun and chowed down on a chili dog.
The lunch buddy beside him was one of 25 boys who live at Windwood Farm Home for Children in Awendaw, some 22 miles from Riley Park in downtown Charleston where Nolan-Cohn works.
“We got to really talk to them and give them positive words of encouragement,” said Nolan-Cohn, the Community Relations Director for the Charleston RiverDogs baseball team.
Lunch wasn’t the only reason he and several other RiverDogs staffers made the trip out to Windwood. The group partnered with Blackbaud and renovated Windwood’s baseball field.
In one day, more than 30 members of the baseball team’s staff and a handful of Blackbaud employees cut the overrun grass, added new bases and reshaped the baseball diamond to bring it up to date.
“It was essentially a backstop with high grass and dirt when we got there,” Nolan-Cohn said. “So it really felt good being able to provide the kids with a renovated field.”
The effort last month was about two years in the making, said Charlotte Livingston, Windwood’s director of volunteer services.
That baseball field was first constructed about 15 years ago. But since the facility has one maintenance worker who oversees 110 acres, it’s been tough to keep it in prime condition.
Livingston said it was a blessing for the kids at Windwood, a facility that provides a home for boys ages 6 to 16 who have behavioral problems often linked to broken homes, trauma or other issues.
That’s where the baseball field serves a dual purpose. In addition to playing baseball on it, the kids are able to use the field for recreational therapy.
“Our therapist teaches them social and emotional skills through physical activity,” Livingston explained. “So they’re getting a lot of use out of it.”
The boys at Windwood waved goodbye to the RiverDogs staffers that day, but it wouldn’t be the last time they’d break bread together. The boys, who were given tickets to the RiverDogs’ game on June 6, ate hotdogs as they watched the baseball team win.
And later this month, some of those same players they watched at Riley Park will be heading to Awendaw for a baseball clinic at the farm.
“They love and really need that positive adult interaction,” Livingston said. “The players and other adults serve as mentors for these boys, so it’s been a really great partnership.”