A few Vankleek Hill softball players are hoping for community support as they launch an effort to raise funds to upgrade the Vankleek Hill ball diamond at Mill Street Park.
Lesley McDonald and Mike Paquette are leading a few volunteers who want to raise $14,000 for what McDonald and Paquette say will be a big improvement to the existing stone dust that is currently the surface on the ball field.
McDonald says that a custom three-way mix of clay and sand materials would dry quickly after it rains, enabling players to get back on the field, offers firm traction and makes for quick starts and stops, and certainly not the least of its attributes — the material reduces the scratches and cuts that happen when players fall or slide on the field. McDonald says the new surface will need less maintenance and is better for ball deflection, which makes for a faster-moving game.
Both Paquette and McDonald say that the new surface will make it safer for players and that the “bounce” of the ball will be more predictable. They have scouted out a mix from Greely Sand & Gravel called “Greely’s Grey Infield Mix.”
Early posts on social media have revealed some skepticism, but Paquette says this mix is not beach or playground sand, but is a custom mix made especially for ball fields.
McDonald has done some research and says that this upgraded type of surface material is being used successfully in Embrun. Paquette said he has spoken with staff there and visited a ball field to take a small sample.
The initiative has the backing of Champlain Parks and Recreation Director Lisa Burroughs, who says she encouraged the group to raise the funds for the upgrade while she herself does some research into the material itself, the cost and the maintenance before the idea is presented to Champlain Township council for approval.
The group has approval for a sign to be installed at the ball diamond to acknowledge supporters and, organizers hope, contractors who may offer to contribute equipment and/or manpower to offset some of the installation costs.
“We feel this upgrade is long overdue for the town and our hope is that families and children, along with more leagues, will begin using the field once again once they know it is much safer and pleasant to play on,” says Paquette.
Paquette says the hope is that significant funds will have been raised before they approach council with the idea.
Dinner and a movie
In the meantime, McDonald and Paquette have started a GoFundMe page to raise the estimated $14,000 cost of the upgrade. She is organizing a steak night fundraiser at the Windsor Tavern on July 26, which will be followed by a “Movie Under the Stars” in the Mill Street Park.
“Mia and the White Lion” will be shown and everyone is invited to bring blankets, chairs and snacks. Donations for the upgrading of the softball diamond are welcome. Chips, water and pop will be for sale as well to help raise money for the upgrade.
McDonald and her supporters are also working on a three-day softball tournament to be held at the Mill Street Park in September. She is still firming up dates, but hopes to have softball teams from the region register to play.
She welcomes volunteers to help and says that door prizes for the event would be a great boost.
The softball diamond is a busy place on Tuesdays and Thursdays, when about eight teams from the Vankleek Hill Softball League play there during softball season.
If you want to find out more or offer to help, email Lesley McDonald at [email protected] or contact Mike Paquette here: [email protected]
To make a donation, visit the GoFundMe page.
McDonald says that the group plans to contribute a portion of the donations to the Vankleek Hill Volunteer Fire Department.
Thank you to Louise Sproule and the Review for bringing attention to this cause on our behalf. Thank you as well to Lesley McDonald for her tireless efforts and to Lisa Burroughs for backing our efforts. I hope the community will feel as passionate as we do about upgrading our field to make it safer and more pleasurable to play on. My hope is for Vankleek Hill to, one day soon, have children and families interested in playing softball or baseball again like when I was a child growing up in this amazing town. Please help us out in any way possible. Thank you in advance for your support and I’m always available if people have questions, comments or concerns.